Facebook makes brand safety upgrades as protest groups call for Instagram 'freeze'

Facebook is providing advertisers with new brand safety guardrails on parts of the platform as it works to instill confidence that ads will run in appropriate settings. Meanwhile, Facebook detractors continue to apply pressure with a new phase in the Stop Hate for Profit campaign organized by civil rights groups this week that targets Instagram.

On Monday, Facebook laid out new remedies to give brands more control over where ads appear, particularly within videos that are published by media partners on the social network. At the same time, the groups behind Stop Hate for Profit organized a new campaign to protest Instagram, and they highlighted the support of comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who has been an unrelenting critic of Facebook.

“We recognize our responsibility to provide a safe environment for everyone using our platforms,” Facebook said in its announcement, which outlines the latest steps it has taken to provide more transparency to brands. “And while there is still more to be done, we’re committed to continue investing in our people, processes and tools to help keep the platform safe for all.”

Facebook has been making changes to how it moderates the social network and sibling apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Brands had grown more concerned in recent months, with the U.S. presidential election approaching and civil unrest driving conversations online. Advertisers have demanded more controls to avoid appearing in contexts that highlight hot-button issues.

In July, Stop Hate for Profit, a movement backed by the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, Color of Change and others, led an advertiser boycott of Facebook over what they considered lax policies against hate speech and disinformation. Facebook made a number of policy changes in the wake of the boycott that attracted big-spending brands like Unilever, Starbucks and Verizon. More than 1,000 brands ultimately stood with the boycott.

Facebook submitted to an independent audit by the Media Rating Council to grade its effectiveness enforcing certain brand safety measures as they relate to content and partner monetization policies. MRC will have visibility into how Facebook handles ads that run inside videos, the kind of ads—in-stream video ads—Facebook addressed in its latest brand safety update.

Facebook says it is “planning to test content delivery reports with select advertisers, giving them visibility into the video assets where their ads were delivered.”

Today, Facebook also touted its work with industry organization like the Trustworthy Accountability Group, which launched a brand safety certification program last week. Facebook is a party to that program. The program covers Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Audience Network, and “demonstrates a commitment to brand protection.”

Facebook also is working with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media to create standards for the industry to grade brand suitability on social platforms and other digital sites where ads appear.

Stop Hate has evolved its tactics, too, however. Today, the movement called for a “freeze” on Instagram on Wednesday. Stop Hate wants people to suspend sharing on Instagram for 24 hours as a way to protest misinformation and hate groups on the app.

Facebook executives have repeatedly disavowed white supremacy groups and the company says it removes more than 95 percent of hate content before it ever reaches the public. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tried to refute claims that there is an outsized amount of politically offensive material on his apps.

Stop Hate has pointed to examples like divisive conversations around unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to claim that Facebook does not have a good handle on hateful rhetoric. Facebook has said it is cracking down on militia groups and conspiracy theorists, but Stop Hate claims Facebook failed to heed warnings about violence brewing on the service.

In Kenosha, following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in August, there were violent protests, and three people were killed. Facebook said it found no evidence the accused shooter was drawn to the protests through his Facebook activity.

“Our organizations as well as other experts have been warning Facebook for years about the problem of dangerous, potentially violent groups and individuals using Facebook,” Stop Hate organizers said in their announcement on Monday. “But time and time again they’ve failed to listen.”

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