Unilever threatens Big Tech to pull ads

The world’s second-biggest marketing spender Unilever is threatening to withdraw its advertising from digital platforms if they create division, foster hate or fail to protect children.

Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, will speak today at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference and will warn major advertisers, media groups and technology companies, such as Facebook and Google.

“Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate,” he plans to say.

Unilever’s marketing boss Keith Weed said they will prioritise investing “in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.” (photo: Wikimedia commons)

Last year Unilever spent £6.8bn advertising its brands, which include Dove soap, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Marmite marmalade and PG Tips teabags. The company has cut its advertising budget as part of a cost-saving drive, following Kraft Heinz’s failed takeover bid a year ago.

“As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” Weed plans to say. “We cannot 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.”

Twitter reacted positively to the news. However, some Twitter users are not convinced of Unilever’s good intentions:

It’s not the first time Silicon Valley companies are criticized for the negative effect they might have on society. Politicians, consumer advocates and former tech executives are pressing for further controls to crack down on hate speech, fabricated political content and internet substance that is harmful to children.

Many concerns have been brought up in the public debate, beginning with the scandal of Russian interference in elections to mental health consequences of social media use to accusation of sexual harassment.

Last December, European Commission warned Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter and other internet technology companies that they must do more to curb the spread of extremist content or face legislation.

Google answered it would hire thousands of new moderators to avoid child abuse videos and other violent and offensive content to flourish on YouTube.

[author: Alice Facchini; sub: Miranda Tomlinson]

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