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The Corporate Boycott of Facebook Is Hypocritical Virtue Signalling

Corporations Are Increasingly Attempting to Woke-Wash Their Repellant Practices

A growing number of corporations are pulling their advertising from Facebook in a boycott over what they allege are Facebook’s failures to combat hate speech.

Organised by a civil rights coalition including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the NAACP, the #StopHateforProfit campaign has called on major corporations to pause their advertising on Facebook over the company’s “repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms.”

And corporate America has been only too keen to join the fight with the likes of Addidas, Coca-Cola and Microsoft eagerly laying down their virtue.

While combatting the rise of the far-right and racism is one of the key struggles of our age, this corporate movement is merely yet another attempt by capitalism to co-opt left-wing struggles and turn them into a marketing opportunity.

Did Nike really care one iota about Colin Kirkpatrick or was he another face of a marketing campaign that a corporate team knew would sell a ton of sneakers? This theme is one that is an ever-growing problem for the left-wing struggle as corporations cover themselves in rainbow flags and don’t waste a moment to let us know how they’re combatting climate change and how many women are in their board room.

The establishment has tried to control social media discourse for years.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts his second Facebook town hall meeting in his Pentagon office, March 13, 2014. The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget request was a prominent topic in the chairman’s social media discussion. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hilton  

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Pink-washing, green-washing and race-washing are little more than a smokescreen, however, a veil of liberalism to sell capitalism to the “woke” generation who are increasingly sceptical of the ideology.

Indeed, it’s no coincidence that corporations sudden attack on conscience comes as huge amounts of US Millennials and Generation Z are beginning to embrace socialism and policies associated with the true left and not the American faux-left.

According to a poll from February of 2019, 61 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 view socialism in a positive light. Further, 73.1 percent of Millennials and Generation Z believe the government should provide universal health care, and 67.1 percent think college should be tuition-free.

This rise in socialist conscience was developed in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and only expanded during the profoundly hypocritical neoliberal reign of Barack Obama. The rise to prominence of Bernie Sanders, the Democrats backing of Hilary Clinton and ascension of Donald Trump has also played a part alongside rising Latino voices, movements such as the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movement and, key, the rise of social media.

Centrists seem to support Facebook when it’s for their benefit.

President Barack Obama, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, holds a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, April 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

While centrists trumpet their opposition to Facebook being “hate speech” and “foreign interference in domestic politics”, this isn’t quite the truth. While social media has undoubtedly assisted in the reawakening of the spectre of fascism, what the establishment truly fear is not jackboots in Whitehall but rather the huge support that socialism and socialist candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have developed online.

If corporations and political parties truly cared one iota for “hate speech” then they would reign in their own divisive policies and candidates, yet the racist Joe Biden remains the DNC candidate for President, Labour is riddled with racists and many of the companies on the boycott list still engage in trade with all manner of oppressive and racist regimes, notably Israel

Speaking to CNN on Friday, Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook’s global business group, said Facebook “respect[ed]” the decision of advertisers.

“We deeply respect any brand’s decision and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information. Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good.”

Carolyn Everson

Let’s take a very brief look at a few of the companies that are engaged in the Facebook boycott. These cases are, of course, the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unethical practices.

Due warning, lots of meaningless corporate doublespeak ahead.

Adidas

“Racist, discriminatory, and hateful online content have no place in our brand or in society. As we focus on better practices within our company and communities to ensure lasting change in the fight against racism, Adidas and Reebok will also pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram globally throughout July.”

Adidas operates sweatshops, particularly in Indonesia. The company has previously rejected many of its suppliers that supported unions in favour of subcontractors with worse labour rights records. At the Panarub factory in Java, 33 workers were fired after striking for better pay in 2005.

The campaign group Labour Behind the Label claimed that the basic pay of Indonesian Adidas workers was only £10 a week.

On 14 June 2012, Adidas posted on their Facebook page a picture of a pair of Jeremy Scott-designed shoes containing shackles, with the Reverand Jesse Jackson saying “The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive.”


Coca-Cola

“We will take this time to reassess our advertising standards and policies to determine whether revisions are needed internally, and what more we should expect of our social media partners to rid the platforms of hate, violence and inappropriate content. We will let them know we expect greater accountability, action and transparency from them.”

In November of 2000, Coca-Cola agreed to pay a huge $192.5 million settlement in a racial discrimination lawsuit, promising to change the way it manages, promotes and treats minority employees in the US. However, two years later and protesters at the company’s annual meeting claimed that black people remained underrepresented in top management at the company and were still paid less than white employees and fired more often.

In 2005, 105 Turkish Coca-Cola employees were fired for their union activity with these employees and some family members being physically attacked by members of the Turkish National Police’s riot squads during peaceful demonstrations against their terminations.

Most shockingly of all however was the 2001 lawsuit over Coca-Cola’s alleged use of far-right death squads in Colombia. The death squads were utilised to kidnap, torture, and kill Colombian bottlers that were linked with trade union activity. Coca-Cola was sued in a US federal court in Miami by the Colombian food and drink union Sinaltrainal. The suit stated that Coca-Cola was indirectly responsible for having “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilised extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders”. This sparked campaigns to boycott Coca-Cola in the UK, US, Germany, Italy, and Australia.


The Hershey Company

“We do not believe that Facebook is effectively managing violent and divisive speech on their platform. Despite repeated assertions by Facebook to take action, we have not seen meaningful change. Earlier this month we communicated to Facebook that we were unhappy with their stance on hate speech. … We are hopeful that Facebook will take action and make it a safe space for our consumers to communicate and gather. As a company, we stand for the values of togetherness and inclusion and we are resolute in our commitment to make a difference and be part of positive change.”

Just last year, Hershey announced that they couldn’t guarantee that their chocolate products were free from child slave labour. The Washington Post noted that the commitment taken in 2001 to eradicate such practices within 4 years had not been kept, neither at the due deadline of 2005, nor within the revised deadlines of 2008 and 2010, and that the result was not likely to be achieved for 2020 either.


Hewlett Packard

“We have expressed deep concerns to Facebook and are stopping U.S. advertising on the platform until we see more robust safeguards in place. We are also reviewing our social media strategy across all markets and platforms, and we will take additional actions as needed to protect our brand and combat hateful content.”

In 2012, Richard Falk, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, called for boycotting HP together with other “businesses that are profiting from Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land until they brought their operations in line with international human rights and humanitarian law”.

In 2014, the Presbyterian Church voted to move forward with divestment from HP “in protest of Israeli policies toward Palestinians”.

In 2015, the City of Portland’s Human Rights Commission requested to place Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions on the City’s “Do Not Buy” list.

Of the companies listed here, Coca-Cola, some Hershey distributed products, Microsoft and Pfizer make most BDS lists.


Microsoft

“Based on concerns we had back in May we suspended all media spending on Facebook/Instagram in the US and we’ve subsequently suspended all spending on Facebook/Instagram worldwide.”

In 2019, Microsoft’s flagship store was shut down by protestors that was organized by Close the Camps NYC. The action was in response to Microsoft’s $19.4 million contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Microsoft executive Tom Keane has stated that the company is “proud to support” the work of ICE.”

The same year, Microsoft employees protested the company’s $480 million contract to develop augmented reality headsets for the United States Army.

Microsoft has been criticized for using employees that are employed for years as “temporary,” and the use of forced retention tactics, where departing employees would be sued to prevent departure. Ensuring that employees are “permatemp” means the company doesn’t have to pay medical benefits.

Jesse Jackson has stated his belief that Microsoft should hire more minorities.


Pfizer

“Today, we are asking Facebook to take proactive steps to ensure their platforms are safe and trusted spaces for all. We are calling on Facebook to continue listening to the concerns of the #StopHateForProfit movement and take action on their product recommendations.”

Really?


Puma

“We are proud to join the #StopHateforProfit boycott. We will stop all advertisements on Facebook and Instagram throughout July.”

In 2012, a woman who worked at one of Puma’s suppliers in Cambodia was shot during a protest over working conditions at the factory, forcing Puma to acknowledge the poor working conditions there. According to reports from Labour Behind the Label and Community Legal Education Centre, Puma workers have fainted from excessive heat, with almost 120 workers fainting in two Cambodian factories in 2014. The temperatures were said to be above 100 degrees. In 2017, 150 workers assembling Puma products in Cambodia fainted due to thick smoke.


Starbucks

“We believe in bringing communities together, both in person and online, and we stand against hate speech. We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change.”

In 2006, Oxfam stated that Starbucks was financially wounding Ethiopian coffee farmers and violating Fairtrade agreements. Oxfam claimed that Starbucks deprived Ethiopian farmers of $88 million a year.

Before an outcry from customers, Starbucks had banned its staff from wearing Black Lives Matter apparel through its ban on attire that “advocates a political, religious or personal issue.”


Unilever

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. The complexities of the current cultural landscape have placed a renewed responsibility on brands to learn, respond and act to drive a trusted and safe digital ecosystem.”

In 2014, Unilever was criticised by Greenpeace for causing deforestation through their buying of palm oil from suppliers that were damaging Indonesia’s rainforests. By 2008, Indonesia was losing 2% of its remaining rainforest each year and had the fastest deforestation rate of any country.

In an Amnesty International report from 2016, Unilever’s palm oil supplier Wilmar International was exposed as having profited from child labour and forced labour. Workers were extorted, threatened and not paid for work with many suffering severe injuries from banned chemicals.

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