a lot of media noise for nothing?

More than 200 advertisers support Facebook boycotts, accused of not being tough enough on hate speech online. This is not the first crisis the King of social networks is undergoing … generally without much harm. How can it be different this time?

Ford joined Verizon, Coca Cola, Unilever, Levi Strauss, Microsoft and sportswear manufacturer The North Face on Monday, June 29. In all, more than 240 groups, organizations and individuals have decided to support the advertising booth aimed at Facebook.

They accuse him of not being firm enough against hate speech on his platform and of not acting, particularly against a message published two weeks ago, May 29, by US President Donald Trump, perceived as a call for violence against protesters from Black Lives Matter.

Another crisis?

And it is in the stock market that the giant in social networks is beginning to feel the effects of this anger from advertisers, which has lasted for more than ten days. The group had lost more than $ 56 billion in market value late last week.

This is not the first time a complainant is threatening the empire that Mark Zuckerberg built. The Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, the accusations of giving free rein to the Russian propaganda campaign during the 2016 US presidential election, was deemed insufficient by personal data: so many controversies that pushed Facebook to its limits and had negative consequences for its financial performance. But the group came out of it every time by making adjustments to how the platform works and promises to do better in the future.

Read >> USA: What Future for the Black Lives Matter Movement?

Again, Mark Zuckerberg used the old recipes with proven efficiency. he was announced on Friday tighter controls on political messages posted online and a ban on certain promotional ads. A turn of 180 ° considering that ten days earlier, the same had assured himself of not wanting to play the judge on what was politically tolerable on his platform. “It is a way of emphasizing that he is able to adapt his platform to what he believes is the development of society, even if it does not match his own beliefs,” emphasizes Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers, an Israeli social analytics company media, contacted by France 24.

No alternative to Facebook for an advertiser

But will it be enough to get advertisers back on track? There are indications that this revolt can make a lot of noise for very little. First, “there are about 200 companies participating in a total of eight million advertisers, which is not very representative,” emphasizes Johannes Habel, professor of marketing at Warwick Business School, contacted by France 24. Admittedly, large groups have joined this movement, ” but we must not forget that most of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from SMEs that need to reach their customers locally, “recalls an expert from the British University.

The boycotts also do not progress in close rank. Some have warned that they will refrain from advertising on Facebook for just a month, others have decided to publish their budget on Instagram (also owned by the Empire Zuckerberg), not to mention all those who have announced an end to advertising spend on all social networks, but without invoking their disagreement with Facebook’s content control policy. Finally, “it is not excluded that advertisers seized the opportunity to do free advertising by implementing budget cuts already implemented due to the financial crisis of support for the boycott business,” said Alexandre Baradez, financial analyst for consulting firm IG Markets, contacted by France 24.

These are all reasons that drive Israeli social media specialists Yuval Ben-Itzhak to believe that this movement will quickly become empty. “Facebook’s audience means there is no real alternative for an advertiser. That was so during the previous crises on social media, and I think it will be this time, ”he notes. For him, it is enough for Mark Zuckerberg to go back for a while and wait for the storm to pass.

The prize for Facebook’s success

Not everyone is of this opinion. “This is a unique crisis for the social network because the critics are coming from all sides this time: advertisers, investors and users via the hashtag #StopHateforProfit,” assures Johannes Habel. For him, the CEO of Facebook will “send a strong signal quickly” to show that his announcements are not just nice words, to prevent the movement from gaining momentum. This expert would not be surprised if the social network would “imitate Twitter” by being more serious about Donald Trump’s publications.

Another difference from previous crises comes from Facebook’s ever-increasing importance in the financial sphere. The social network ”and the other giants on the web have become the most important values ​​that pull up the major US stock market indicators such as S&P and Nasdaq. If the proportion of one of these groups drops too suddenly, the entire stock market index is affected, explains financial analyst Alexandre Baradez.

The current US political context does not make life easier for the Facebook boss. This boycott “touches on a theme – discrimination against race – that has been dividing American society for a long time and the election campaign risks exacerbating the passion of this subject,” notes Johannes Habel. In other words, “Whatever Mark Zuckerberg decides to do, he will make people unhappy,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Social Bakeries. If he is not firm enough, he will be accused of wanting to please Donald Trump and if he takes strong action “he could very well cause another boycott, this time by brands, which would condemn Facebook’s attitude as an attack on the principle about absolute freedom of expression in the American way, estimates Johannes Habel. For him, this crisis is the first in Facebook’s history “that Mark Zuckerberg cannot come out as a winner”.