Unilever will pull ads from Google, Facebook unless they stop 'creating division'

Illustration by Alex Castro  The Verge

Illustration by Alex Castro The Verge

In a speech later today, Keith Weed, the Unilever chief marketing officer, will say that, as a brand-led business, Unilever "needs its consumers to have trust in our brands".

Adverts for some of the world's most famous brands could disappear from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube after Unilever threatened to pull its marketing from platforms which "create division in society and promote anger and hate".

Unilever is the world's second largest marketing spender, after Procter & Gamble, and spent €7.7bn (£6.8bn) previous year advertising its brands, which include PG Tips, Marmite, Dove and Persil.

"2018 is either the year of techlash, where the world turns on the tech giants - and we have seen some of this already - or the year of trust", Weed, the Unilever executive, will tell the industry conference.

The call from the advertising giant follows the social media firm coming under increased fire in the past year for its failure to tackle fake news, hate speech, and take down terror and paedophile content.

"We can not continue to prop up a digital supply chain - one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers - which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency".

Unilever will commit to pulling investment from any platforms that do not do enough to protect children or crack down on "fake news, racism, sexism and terrorists spreading messages of hate".

Weed plans to cite research showing trust in social media is at an all-time low worldwide because of "a perceived lack of focus by technology companies in stopping illegal, unethical and extremist behavior and materials on their platforms", Unilever says.

He will add: "It is in the digital media industry's interest to listen and act on this. before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing".

Unilever, one of the world's largest advertisers, may stop buying advertising on social networks like Facebook or Google if these tech companies don't stop helping to spread hate speech and create divisions in society, according to a senior company executive.

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