Food heavyweights Unilever and Hershey have joined other major corporations in stopping or reducing advertising on social media platforms in the US, including Facebook, in an ongoing row over hate speech.

The companies are calling on social media giants to do more to ensure such language is not given a platform on their sites.

They are backing the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which is urging businesses to boycott advertising on Facebook during the month of July.

However, Anglo-Dutch consumer goods business Unilever, which owns brands such as Marmite and Hellmann’s, has gone further than that, both in terms of the length of the boycott and the platforms involved.

It said that in line with its internal guidelines and what it calls the “polarised atmosphere in the US,” it has decided that “starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media news-feed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US.

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By GlobalData

The company-wide decision follows last week’s announcement from its US ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s that it would be supporting the boycott.

Unilever said: “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. 

“We will maintain our total planned media investment in the US by shifting to other media.”

Unilever said the “complexities of the current cultural landscape” have placed a renewed responsibility on brands to learn, respond and act to drive a trusted and safe digital ecosystem.

It said “there is much more to be done” in the areas of divisiveness and hate speech during this “polarised election period in the US”.

US confectionery giant Hershey, meanwhile, said that earlier this month it communicated to Facebook that it was unhappy with its stance on hate speech.

“Despite repeated assertions by Facebook to take action, we have not seen meaningful change,” it said.

It added: “We have now cut our spending on Facebook and their platforms, including Instagram, by a third for the remainder of the year.”

Media outlets in the US are suggesting global food and beverages behemoth PepsiCo has also joined the advertising boycott of Facebook but the company has not, at the time of writing, issued a statement to this effect.

Among the organisations calling for a boycott of social media platforms to protest the regulation of offensive or racially-insensitive content are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the civil rights organisation Color of Change.