Boycott: Facebook struck at the heart of its economic model

Boycott: Facebook frappé au coeur de son modèle économique

Adidas, Puma, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Unilever (owner of Lipton or Magnum), Ford… Not a day that a great brand was suspending its advertising on Facebook, thus reaching the heart of its economic model, even if the long-term impact of the movement remains uncertain.

More than 400 companies had joined Wednesday, the movement #stophateforprofit which demand to suspend in July all advertising on Facebook and on the platform sister Instagram, and applied some of them have the same decision to all the social networks.

Beyond the damage indisputable in terms of image, the mobilization will she weaken the long term the economic model of Facebook and other large platforms, which generate most or even almost all of their income by the pub? Where no regulatory authority nor any political discourse has up to now undermined the ascent of the Gafa ?

It is clear that Facebook is often criticised for its approach deemed timorous in the control of content, multiply the ads since a few days: it comes to to ban the right-wing group ” Boogaloo “, promises to showcase the information sourcées and documented, hardens the moderation…

“Until now, the social networks were able to surf with speech” on their efforts of moderation on the content of the most dangerous, “but there it is their portfolio that is affected,” says Laurent Benzoni, economist, professor at Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, and founder of the consulting firm Tera.

“I don’t know how they will manage to find a compromise, by ensuring that they are not quite editors” of the press, a label which the Gafa don’t want to be, all, “reassuring advertisers” on the content.

Daniel Salmon, analyst at BMO Capital Markets, does not foresee, however, no ” financial impact tangible at this stage “.

SMES, tank advertising of Facebook

Facebook, in particular, can count on a solid base of small and medium-sized businesses to fuel its advertising revenue, which emanate from some 8 million advertisers.

According to a count of the company Pathmatics, quoted by CNN, the 100 top brands the biggest spenders were counted for 6% of the advertising revenue total of the social network last year, income which amounted to nearly $ 70 billion.

“It is difficult for a small business to leave Facebook “, and even more with the pandemic, which has forced many local entrepreneurs to “convert to” all-digital “, judge Nina Goetzen, an analyst specialising in the advertising sector, in a recent podcast.

The group of Mark Zuckerberg has also, in may, launched a new tool for small businesses, a kind of “showcase” virtual that allows traders to do their advertising… and the social network to collect even more data. And, therefore, provide targeting advertising ever more end.

Debra Aho Williamson, analyst with eMarketer, agrees that the current mobilization “is different” from the one, more low, who had followed the scandal Cambridge Analytica misuse of personal data on Facebook.

But she points out that the brands that have joined the boycott have for many ” a long history of positions taken on issues of social justice.” To make the difference, it would be necessary to hear that a behemoth such as Procter & Gamble, or Amazon to join the movement.

But these great names will they want to go without the tool powerhouse that is the advertising created by Facebook and others, thanks to a cluster of personal data disseminated by internet users?

Social networks “have built their business model on targeted advertising,” said economist Olivier Bomsel, professor at Mines Paris Tech. To recruit a maximum of potential targets, ” they have been encouraged to maximize the audience through the construction of stories sensationalist, the exacerbation of differences of opinions, conflicts of values “.

Nick Clegg, a lobbyist-in-chief of Facebook, defended on Bloomberg TV of any strategy of this kind: “We do not derive any profit from the hatred, we do not encourage. “It is our job to expose this kind of content, but I don’t want anyone to imagine that we will be able to get rid of it entirely because the hate speech is part of the human condition. “

In the longer term, in the opinion of a company that is boycotting Facebook, the question of the control of the major platforms and their growing power, is political.

“Because we other advertisers have funded these platforms, we have a moral duty to propose alternative solutions “, but with ” only democratically elected institutions can create a sustainable change. The real change (…), that is, to dismantle them “, stressed to AFP Joy Howard, head of marketing at Dashlane, a provider of digital services.

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