News Response: Unilever

Unilever, a transnational consumer goods company, recently threatened to pull its ads from social sites that include Facebook and YouTube because of their toxic communities. The company’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, called on these sites to fix these toxic online environments where “propaganda, hate speech, and disturbing content that exploits children thrive.” Weed also stated that Unilever is also focusing on creating more responsible content to improve consumer ad experiences.

If Unilever pulls its ads out from social sites, it would mean pretty bad news to these sites, since Unilever is one of the world’s largest advertisers. Just last year, the company spent about $9.5 billion marketing its brands, out of which a quarter ($2.4 billion) was spent on digital advertising. Losing such a major advertiser would have a major impact on the sites’ ad revenue, so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that these sites will work on better regulating their communities to reduce the toxicity.

Even though the Internet allows people to connect and share ideas and knowledge very easily, prejudice and bias still somehow manage to exist. Even now we can find many examples of racism, sexism, propaganda, and other kinds of negative content on the web if we search enough. However, this may only be because the Internet helps amplify such perspectives by giving people a tool to voice their opinions. In reality, such opinions would be drowned out by the majority that opposes such toxicity. We don’t know how long it will take, but we can only hope that eventually the web will become a safer environment for everyone to enjoy.