Unilever has threatened to withdraw from platforms like Google and Facebook if they do not do enough to police extremist and illegal content.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” said Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed. He said it was in the interest of digital media firms to act before “advertisers stop advertising”.
Weed said companies could not continue to support an online advertising industry where extremist material, fake news, child exploitation, political manipulation, racism and sexism were rife.
“It is acutely clear from the groundswell of consumer voices over recent months that people are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of digital on wellbeing, on democracy – and on truth itself,” he said. “This is not something that can brushed aside or ignored.”
Unilever has pledged to: not invest in platforms that do not protect children or create division in society; only invest in platforms that make a positive contribution to society; tackle gender stereotypes in advertising; and only partner with companies creating a responsible digital infrastructure
According to research firm Pivotal, Facebook and Google accounted for 73 per cent of all digital advertising in the US in 2017. During 2017, Google brought in £4.4bn in revenue from online advertising, while Facebook collected £1.8bn, according to eMarketer.
Sam Barker, a senior analyst at Juniper Research, said: “The advertising ecosystem contains so many players, so for Facebook and Google to see any dent in the profits they make, there will need to be many companies that not only put their hat in the ring, but also follow through on these threats.”