Facebook Ads Dropped Over Offensive Images

Facebook responded to last week's ad boycott campaign and promises to rethink its policies on harmful content and take domestic violence seriously. But some advertisers also heard the call to end gender-based hate speech and have suspended Facebook marketing campaigns after their ads appeared alongside offensive posts.

Here is an excerpt of Facebook’s statement:

 In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.

The responses from Facebook and advertisers highlight the risks of a new form of "targeted" advertising. Targeted advertising identifies that a person is likely to buy a particular product, and then automatically places ads for that product on whatever page he or she visits.

Advertisers' decision to pull their ads followed the call to action launched last week by activist Soraya Chemaly, Women Action and Media, The Everyday Sexism Project   and other women's rights organization. 

Ads from Nissan UK, Nationwide UK and Dove were automatically placed next to the offensive images that Facebook users either sought out or stumbled upon accidentally.  Screenshots juxtaposing the misogynistic images with the advertiser's products were then widely circulated.

So far, 15 companies have announced they had pulled their advertising and at least a dozen more were reviewing their advertising on the platform. Dove and American Express, among the main targets of the campaign, have been slow to take any action.