Unilever's Decision to Regulate Its Advertisements Puts Focus Back on Fake News Menace

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), February 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

Unilever's Decision to Regulate Its Advertisements Puts Focus Back on Fake News Menace


India, Feb. 19 -- Can advertisers regulate content?

Platforms such as Facebook and Google have proved incapable of tackling fake news and hate speech.

Much of this comes from a fundamental confusion - these companies sometimes behave like large media firms and, at other times, as content-agnostic platforms.

So, who can regulate content? Some large advertisers think they can.

Last week, Unilever plc (the parent of India's largest consumer packaged goods firm, Hindustan Unilever Ltd) threatened to withdraw advertising from Facebook Inc and Youtube (owned by Google), according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. "Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society or promote anger and hate," the report quoted Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed as saying.

Last year Procter & Gamble, Unilever's rival, said pretty much the same.

What exactly does Unilever want? According to the WSJ report, it is "leveraging its spending power to push the digital media industry to weed out content that funds terrorism, exploits children, spreads false news or supports racist and sexist views."

At the core of all media businesses - and Facebook and Google are media companies, not technology ones - are two groups of people who pay for the content (directly and indirectly), the audience, and advertisers. Understandably, media companies are usually pretty sensitive to feedback from advertisers. They are also sensitive to feedback from their audience (although not usually to the same extent). …

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