All five of Canada’s biggest banks are joining an international boycott of Facebook over concerns that the platform is complicit in promoting racism, violence and misinformation.
Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, BMO and TD have pledged to stop purchasing ads on the site for the month, aligning themselves with brands such as Lululemon Athletica and Mountain Equipment Co-op in signing onto the StopHateForProfit campaign.
The initiative, spearheaded by organizations like the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, began in response to growing anti-Semitic and anti-Black rhetoric found on the social media platform.
Participating brands will suspend all advertising on the platform for the month of July.
Scotiabank announced its intentions on Tuesday, while the four other banks confirmed on Wednesday that they would follow suit.
A spokesperson for RBC said the company understands that systemic racism has disadvantaged Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour, and the bank intends to combat that.
“One way we can do that is by standing against misinformation and hate speech, which only make systemic racism more pervasive,” AJ Goodman said.
A spokesperson for Bank of Montreal told CBC News that the bank “will pause its advertising on Facebook and Instagram during the month of July, while continuing our ongoing dialogue with Facebook on changes they can make to their platforms to reduce the spread of hate speech.”
TD said it had also “paused” its advertising for the month and added that the bank is “committed to the fight against racism and hate speech and to the work needed to help create a safer and more inclusive society.”
Facebook criticized for lack of action
Facebook has come under fire in recent months for what critics say is indifference when it comes to policing their platform for individuals and groups espousing hateful ideology.
It’s also been criticized for a lack of action on disinformation.
For instance, last month, U.S. President Donald Trump posted a doctored video featuring fake CNN footage on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, in which a CNN logo appears over footage of a Black toddler running away from a white toddler.
The footage is then followed by another clip from a different angle — this time without the CNN watermark — in which it becomes clear the two toddlers are friends.
The parents of the two toddlers later told ABC News that they were “appalled” and “disgusted” by the video.
Initially, only Twitter flagged the video as misleading, with Facebook resisting public pressure to enforce its own labelling system.
However, after numerous brands began pulling advertising from the platform, the company reversed its decision at the end of June and began taking down some political posts deemed to be fake or misleading.
Criticism against Facebook has come from inside the company as well.
At the beginning of June — shortly after Trump threatened via social media to order the military to shoot anti-racism protesters — hundreds of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest the company’s refusal to label the post as hate speech.
A spokesperson for Facebook noted that the company has suspended more than 250 white supremacist groups from the platform but did not specifically comment on the boycott.
More recently, the advocacy group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting called on the federal government to stop hosting its virtual Canada Day celebration on Facebook.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Wednesday address to Canadians went ahead on the platform — along with YouTube, CBC, CPAC and Radio-Canada.