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Skittish on Social Media: Brand Safety Raises Concerns for Advertisers.

In the wake of a major Facebook advertising boycott in July — and the platform’s failure to satisfy the civil rights advocates accusing it of being soft on hate speech and misinformation — some major advertisers are becoming more wary of social media in general, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The ad industry is “taking a wider look at the other players in social media,” the newspaper says. “Although there are no signs of new boycotts brewing, the scrutiny could affect how social media companies handle hate speech, misinformation, and other content.”

Earlier this summer, Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands announced that it would audit all social media platforms for social responsibility. Each will be scored in 10 categories, including the ability to enforce policies against hate speech and misinformation, diversity, user safety, privacy, advertising transparency, and more.

Elijah Harris, global head of social at Mediabrands agency Reprise, told the Journal that “it’s important to have an objective assessment and not simply allow the news cycle to dictate how we vet these partners.”

Mediabrands released its first quarterly “Media Responsibility Audit” this week. YouTube earned the highest marks for its ability to combat hate speech and misinformation while offering transparency to advertisers.

“Out of nine platforms evaluated, Facebook ranked fifth and TikTok came in last,” the newspaper reported.

“Mediabrands said TikTok fell below the average on areas such as providing controls for advertisers and transparency on ad placements. TikTok was unable to fully answer some questions around diversity, equity and inclusion, according to Mediabrands.”

Meanwhile, major brands like Ford, GM and Coca-Cola are also taking their own critical look at their social media strategies. The Journal says Ford is returning to YouTube and Pinterest but still “evaluating other partners, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok.” Coca-Cola has resumed advertising on YouTube and LinkedIn, but is yet to return to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And earlier this month, GM said was pausing Facebook efforts while “in talks with the company about improving efforts to eliminate harmful content on its popular platform.”

And while Facebook, TikTok, SnapChat, and Twitter all tell the Journal they’re committed to improving, some observers argue that the problem illustrates an inherent danger of advertising on platforms with little or no oversight.

“Part of the problem stems from the fact that social media, along with its popular programmatic buying scheme, remains unregulated,” Entercom chief marketing officer Ruth Gaviria wrote in 2018. “It is void of the same standards that are applicable to traditional media. TV, radio and print operate within industry-wide standards. Sure, regulations have their drawbacks, but standards help maintain transparency and integrity for brands and mediums alike.”

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