Facebook promises to react after Unilever demanded a curb on extremist content

Reuters  Philippe Wojazer Unilever is currently the largest consumer goods company and the fourth-largest global advertiser

Weed, in his speech, will also call out fake news and toxic, unverified online content and call on the media giants to improve transparency and consumer trust.

In a speech delivered at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual leadership meeting in Palm Desert, California, Weed said tech companies were to blame for creating a "swamp" in which fake news and criminal content were being circulated. In terms of content, Unilever plans to tackle gender stereotypes in advertising and improve its own brand messaging after missing the mark on a Dove campaign previous year that led to a social media backlash.

The speech does not accuse any specific platform, but says trust in social media is at a new low due to a perceived lack of focus by tech firms in keeping illegal, unethical and extremist material off their websites.

"Unilever will only partner with organisations which are committed to creating better digital infrastructure, such as aligning around one measurement system and improving the consumer experience".

Unilever also said it is committed to tackling gender stereotypes in advertising and will only partner with organizations that are committed to creating better digital infrastructure.

Unilever, as a trusted advertiser, does not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society, Weed added. According to his assessment, there is a growing split between digital and traditional media, with mounting mistrust around information disseminated on social channels.

Weed: When YouTube had issues past year, a lot of major advertisers left them and told them to clean up their act.

More than a quarter of Unilever's advertising is digital, and we all know that the large majority of that spend goes to the duopoly that is Facebook and Google. "We will continue to work to earn that trust every day", the company said.

"Facebook executives have promised to fight content that "promotes anger and hate" after a major advertiser threatened to stop publishing on the platform, a moment that has been described as the advertising industry's "#MeToo" moment. "This is not the first story we've seen about huge advertisers threatening to pull ad budget over concerns around secrecy, fake news and brand safety".

Weed said the issue is not dissimilar to Unilever's commitment sustainable agriculture resources and the company could no longer "meet the values of one while holding the other at arm's length". This potentially opens the door for TV broadcasters to lure ad dollars away from digital platforms, as TV is often seen as a transparent, brand-safe environment, albeit more expensive than digital advertising.

"[I] t is acutely clear from the groundswell of consumer voices over recent months that people are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of digital on well-being, on democracy - and on truth itself", Weed said.

Google and Facebook, the two Web companies that dominate online advertising, have come under heightened pressure from lawmakers, academics and industry critics to invest more heavily in filtering out misinformation and abusive content on their networks. According to Wikipedia, Unilever is the world's largest consumer goods company measured by 2012 revenue.

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