Several of New Zealand's biggest brands have pulled their advertising from Facebook and Google in the past few days, following a terrorist’s livestream of his massacre of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch last week.
According to several reports, ASB Bank, ANZ Bank, TSB, Westpac, Kiwibank, BNZ, Burger King and Lotto NZ, among others, have stopped or are considering suspending advertising on Facebook and Google to demand that the social-media companies do more to stop the spread of hateful content on their platforms.
A spokesperson for Lotto NZ said: “Like the rest of the country, Lotto NZ is shocked and saddened by the tragic events that occurred in Christchurch on Friday. These events are at the front of our mind this week. We have removed our advertising from social media at this time as the tone didn't feel right in the aftermath of these events."
Colenso BBDO confirmed to Campaign that several of its clients have pulled advertising from Facebook, but declined to comment further.
At the same time, a strong joint statement released by the Association of New Zealand Advertisers and the Commercial Communications Council calls on brands to “carefully consider, with their agency partners, where their ads appear”.
“Advertising funds social media," the statement reads. "Businesses are already asking if they wish to be associated with social media platforms unable or unwilling to take responsibility for content on those sites. The events in Christchurch raise the question, if the site owners can target consumers with advertising in microseconds, why can’t the same technology be applied to prevent this kind of content being streamed live?”
The statement said the role of social media, in particular livestreaming, has been “brought into serious question”, and directly addressed the platforms, saying: “We challenge Facebook and other platform owners to immediately take steps to effectively moderate hate content before another tragedy can be streamed online.”
In an unprecedented move, New Zealand’s largest telco, Spark, said it has been working with internet providers to block access to sites showing the livestream of the attack, according to managing director Simon Moutter.
Helen Clark is 100% correct in asserting that if the global social media platform companies put as much effort into algorithms for preventing of the spread of hate material as they put into targeted advertising, they could easily solve the problem.— Simon Moutter (@simonmoutter) March 15, 2019
Contacted for a response to the associations’ comments, Facebook has issued a new blog post from Chris Sonderby, VP and deputy general counsel, explaining that the company is working directly with New Zealand police. Sonderby added that the livestream was viewed fewer than 200 times and removed "within minutes" of the police contacting Facebook, that no users reported the video during the live broadcast, and that the video was viewed around 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook.
"We remain shocked and saddened by this tragedy and are committed to working with leaders in New Zealand, other governments, and across the technology industry to help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism," Sonderby said. "We continue to work around the clock to prevent this content from appearing on our site, using a combination of technology and people."
Facebook has also been collaborating with industry partners since last week, including the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, which said it has shared “digital fingerprints of more than 800 visually distinct videos related to the attack via our collective database, along with URLs and context on our enforcement approaches”.