The advertising world these days is dominated by content posted on sites like Facebook and Google, but one leading advertiser is taking a stand against the tech titans, according to CNN Money. Unilever, which owns many major American brands including Dove and Ben & Jerry’s, has threatened to stop advertising on the social platforms if they continue to enable fake news, sexism, racism, or extremism.
It’s unclear at this point whether Unilever’s move will have a real impact. Plenty of ink has been spilled about the announcement in the media, but the financial repercussions are harder to see. There was very little change observable in the stock market Monday after the news broke—Facebook remained flat, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, actually ticked 1 percent upward. But there has been mounting public pressure on the tech companies to better police content ever since the 2016 election, and the addition of Unilever’s voice to that chorus may have a subtle effect.
“[More of a] power play than a legitimate threat,” eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin said of Unilever’s comments. “We’ve heard a lot of talk [from advertisers] for the last year, [but] we haven’t seen much action in pulling back spending.”
This is part of a larger power struggle that’s been ongoing in the digital media world. Facebook and Google have become dominant forces in the industry, to the point where 60 percent of all ad spending now goes to one of the two companies. This has created what many industry experts call a “duopoly” in advertising. With this proclamation, Unilever hopes to regain a modicum of control over the business. Seizing on the current media narrative about extremist content and misinformation is a great way to gain some much-needed leverage.
And indeed, the tech companies have already begun to make some concessions and change the way they curate content. Both Facebook and YouTube have made plans to hire content moderators who can help keep things clean, as well as invest in artificial intelligence solutions that can sniff out inappropriate content.
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