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On the Brand Wagon by Fiona Evans

As of Wednesday, at least 530 brands had officially boycotted Facebook, with the intention of forcing Mark Zuckerburg to take a stand against hate speech.

Great to see the likes of Unilever, Starbucks and Coca-Cola getting behind such a critical and sadly necessary cause. Shame that businesses have to take such a stand before Facebook will reconsider their position on such abhorrent behaviour displayed by the “leader of the free world”.

But wait…. Facebook has morals, right? They were quick to act when COVID-19 denial took place on their platform, rightly understanding that misinformation could cause the death or ill health of their users.

So hate speech is OK, misinformation not so good. What about disinformation? Facebook has been in the news again this week (you’ll have to dig a bit deeper for this one) for allowing a loophole which lets climate disinformation slip through the net. Knowing that the younger generations still get their news from social media, fossil fuel magnates/climate change deniers are looking to target this age group, specifically as they are also the most ‘woke’ when it comes to climate change. The CO2 Coalition, who has ties to the Trump administration, is arguing that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is ultimately beneficial for the planet!

To the members of the CO2 Coalition, I challenge you to a quick game of ‘Name That Energy Source’. Let’s all stand in the wind and breathe deeply for 1 minute. Now repeat the same experiment in the sunshine. Lastly, pop your mouth around a car exhaust and do the same thing. Which one is beneficial to you? I might want to argue with which one I think is more beneficial for you!

When COVID-19 misinformation was removed, we didn’t yet know that people of colour are up to four times as likely to die from it. We certainly know who suffers the most from police brutality. Climate change is coming for all of us, but of course the poorer will be affected first and systematic racism means that people of colour will largely be the first affected here too. Zuckerberg will no doubt be on the first spaceship out of here with Musk to Mars.

And so what about these principled brands who are taking a stand?

Coca Cola has a history of literally bleeding communities in India, Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador dry of their own water sources. In Kerala in Southern India, locals became reliant on councils to deliver water after they were left in severe drought conditions, their own wells having run dry, sucked out by a company whose annual revenue is £26,793,800,000. Twenty years after the Suharto dictatorship ended in Indonesia, they have persisted with repressive trade union frameworks to prevent workers’ having the right to organise, systematically harassing those who reorganise under independent unions. Unilever has a similar working ethic. In 2019, an article on the Food and Allied Workers website spoke of peacefully striking employees being attacked with pepper spray and shot at with rubber bullets, scenes reminiscent of ones we have all seen recently in peaceful Black Lives Matter protests State side; albeit, our cousins across the pond don’t enjoy the luxury of rubber ammunition. Unilever's annual revenue is £45,000,000,000 And Starbucks have been under attack for years for tax avoidance. In 2018, the UK-based European business paid just £18.3m in taxes while paying £348m in dividends. Bearing in mind we were still living in enforced austerity measures while being the 5th largest economy on the planet…. this isn’t rocket science, more ‘wool over eyes’.

According to JP Morgan, Facebook counts a whopping 8 million plus brands as advertising clients so are a measly 530 brands, however big they are, going to make any impact for Facebooks’ bottom line? Maybe that’s not really the point.

Could it be that the only reason these businesses are boycotting is to purely to gain brand uplift by placing their names right next to such a highly charged and emotional subject.

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