Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) have agreed to adopt a common set of definitions for hate speech and other harmful content. GARM is a pan-industry digital safety alliance led by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) with support from trade bodies such as ANA, ISBA and the 4As as well as major brands including Unilever, Diageo and Mars.
What progress has been made?
The united stance follows 15 months of intensive talks between advertisers agencies and global platforms set against a backdrop of social media boycotts.
In recent months Facebook has been subject to a damaging advertiser boycott from the likes of Starbucks and Levis. Spearheaded by the Stop Hate for Profit campaign this is designed to force the removal of racist content.
GARM has identified four actionable measures complete with specific deadlines to restore consumer and advertiser safety, led by the adoption of a common definition of harmful content.
This will be backed up by common reporting standards on harmful content and a commitment to independent oversight of all operations, integrations and reporting.
Signatories have also agreed to develop and implement custom tools to better manage advertising adjacency.
WFA chief executive Stephen Loerke said: “As funders of the online ecosystem, advertisers have a critical role to play in driving positive change and we are pleased to have reached agreement with the platforms on an action plan and timeline to make the necessary improvements."
The WFA is encouraging members to apply the same criteria for all media spend in the hope these standards will be adopted across the board.
What do GARM and the WFA hope to achieve with this new approach?
By establishing a common baseline on harmful content, it will be easier for brand owners to make informed decisions over where their ads are placed as well as hold platforms responsible for breaches.
Harmonised standards will encompass all forms of hate speech including acts of aggression and bullying with all participants enforcing common standards.
Further work will be undertaken to harmonise metrics and reporting formats through to November, with a view to implementation in the second half of 2021. As part of this process, all parties will harmonise their metrics on consumer safety, advertiser safety and platform effectiveness in dealing with the issue.
To guarantee fair implementation a third-party verification system will provide independent oversight and reassurance that these steps are being taken.
A rapid rollout will see all major platforms either audited or in the process by the end of the year.
This will furnish advertisers with the necessary visibility and control to distance themselves from inappropriate content.
Other platforms which have committed to implementing adjacency solutions by the end of the year include TikTok, Pinterest and Snap.
What do advertisers think?
Welcoming these efforts Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing officer at Mastercard and WFA president, said: “I know these discussions have not been easy but these solutions when implemented, will offer more choice and control for advertisers and their agencies by supporting content that aligns with their values.”
Luis Di Como, executive vice president, Global Media, Unilever said: “Unilever has long championed a responsible and safe online environment through Unilever’s Responsibility Framework and as founding members of GARM, we are encouraged by the acceleration and focus to come together as an industry and agree on these four key areas of action.“
Di Como added: “The issues within the online ecosystem are complicated, and whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”
Jacqui Stephenson, global responsible marketing officer for Mars, welcomed “the uncommon collaboration“ which has resulted in a “time-bound roadmap for the development of foundational standards, definitions and reporting practices“.
Stephenson concluded: “This is not a declaration of victory. There is much work to be done and we rely on all of our platform partners to follow through on their commitments with the pace and urgency these issues demand.”