Facebook must act more like a publisher, says Patagonia boss

Michael Cogley
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook must “develop a conscience” and behave more like traditional media, the European head of outdoor clothing company Patagonia has said.

Patagonia is one of a range of global companies that have pulled their advertising from the social media giant as it struggles to deal with hateful content on the site.

Ryan Gellert, Patagonia’s general manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said that Facebook had moved at a “glacial” pace in addressing the issues on the platform.

“We made the decision because we believe that many of these tech platforms – Facebook more than most, – have been profiting from hate speech and disinformation,” Mr Gellert said on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“They’re not going to stop until they see this impact of revenue, their business model is flawed and they failed to take the steps needed to remedy it so I think now more than ever they’re endangering human health and weakening our democratic systems.”

When asked if he though Facebook should take complete responsibility for everything that appears on the site likes traditional media, he said: "Yes, I think that's the parallel".

Mr Gellert said Patagonia had an “obligation” not to spend its money with Facebook and that the company’s boycott of the site “could go on indefinitely”.

“I think that they've ultimately got to develop a conscience and they've got to understand that their business model really needs to evolve this is not about incremental changes is about really looking at how they run their platform,” the clothing chief said.

Patagonia has joined the likes of Ford, Adidas, HP, Coca Cola, Unilever, and Starbucks in boycotting the social media site.

The companies have joined the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, which aims to exert pressure on Facebook to act on disinformation and hate speech on its platform.

The campaign urges the social media giant to implement a range of steps including a commitment to third-party independent audits of “identity-based hate and disinformation”.

Facebook ad boycott

It also asks Facebook to provide refunds to companies that have had their ads shown next to hateful content. Facebook should also find and remove groups focused on “white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocost denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism”.

Facebook’s Northern Europe VP Steve Hatch said the company has been working in the area of hate speech “for many years” and that the company was “investing millions in teams and systems to improve on the area”.

“Our systems detect around 90pc of that hate speech automatically,” Mr Hatch told the Today programme.

“That’s not perfect but we know it’s up from 23pc two years ago, but we know systems aren’t the only answer.”

When asked if Facebook’s business model was one that profited from hate speech, Mr Hatch said that he “couldn’t disagree more”.

“There is no profit to be had in content that is hateful and for the vast majority of people their experience with Facebook is an incredibly positive one,” he said.

“There are three billion people around the world that use our platforms with tens of billions of messages posted. Now of course there is a small minority of those that are hateful.”

Mr Hatch said that “when there’s hate in the world, there will also be hate on Facebook”.

The social media chief was speaking after the company launched a new media literacy campaign that aims to help people spot fake news online.

The campaign will direct people to the website StampOutFalseNews.com, which asks users three main questions about what they see online: “Where’s it from?”, “What’s missing?”, and “How do you feel”.