Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial decision to not censor offensive or inaccurate posts by President Trump could land him in hot water with advertisers, according to a new report.
Liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America is drafting a letter urging advertisers to pull their ad spots from Facebook in protest of Zuckerberg’s handling of Trump’s tweets, according to a report in The Information.
Of particular concern, Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said, are Trump’s posts claiming mail-in ballots lead to rampant voter fraud — claims that the organization says disproportionately hurt underprivileged groups.
“So advertisers need to be asking, is there a risk here or not” of having their spots run on the social network, Carusone told The Information. Advertisers “aren’t going to be able to say it’s OK to give $3 million to a company that gives African Americans wrong information about polling.”
An ad boycott would ramp up the pressure on Zuckerberg, who’s already defended his decision to a wide range of critics, including some of his own employees. Media Matters is best known for convincing advertisers to pull spots from Fox News amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment against host Bill O’Reilly.
But Carusone insists he’s not currently seeking a full-fledged boycott against Facebook. In fact, he’s still seeking feedback from media buyers about whether to even send the letter due to concerns that smaller businesses rely heavily on the social networking company for effective advertising.
“There is a deep entrenchment in Facebook, and you can’t just make an idle threat,” Carusone said.
The nonprofit currently plans to send the letter to media buyers ahead of the NewFront presentation, an annual advertising event for digital media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. This year the event, which normally attracts tens of thousands of ad buyers to a week-long showcase, will be held virtually June 22-26 due to the coronavirus.
Zuckerberg has repeatedly defended his decision to leave the posts by public officials like Trump untouched because their speech is already some of the most intensely scrutinized speech in a democratic system with a free press.
Twitter, by contrast, recently made waves by slapping a couple of fact-check warnings on the president’s tweets claiming mail-in ballots will lead to rampant fraud, including mailboxes getting robbed. The Jack Dorsey-run company has been praised by Facebook staffers and pilloried by the White House.