Microsoft Suspends Advertising on Facebook

Posted on June 29, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Social, Microsoft with 40 Comments

Two separate reports state that Microsoft has stopped advertising on Facebook’s services because it publishes inappropriate content. The move is a rebuke to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s stance on politicians and others using his platform for hate speech and misinformation, and Microsoft joins a growing list of companies that are pulling ads from Facebook and other social media services for the same reasons.

“Based on concerns we had back in May we suspended all media spending on Facebook/Instagram in the U.S. and we’ve subsequently suspended all spending on Facebook/Instagram worldwide,” Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela told fellow employees in an internal memo cited by Axios. “The timeline on resuming our media spending is dependent on the positive actions they take, but I expect our pause will continue through August.”

In the memo, which wasn’t meant for public consumptions but has been confirmed by Bloomberg, Capossela specifically called out the “hate speech, pornography, [and] terrorist content” that Facebook allows its users to promulgate using its services.

“Our experience tells us that the most impactful means to effect genuine, long-term change is through direct dialogue and meaningful action with our media partners, including the suspension of real marketing dollars,” Mr. Capossela continues in the memo. “We’ve also learned from experience that it doesn’t help our customers, our media partners, or Microsoft to publicize our media spend strategy, but to instead work directly with partners on positive change.”

Microsoft spent an estimated $116 million in Facebook advertising in 2019, and was the company’s third-largest advertiser last year, Bloomberg says.

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Microsoft Suspends Advertising on Facebook”

  1. proftheory

    I used to click on the occasional side ads they run until one time it took me to a porn site. I immediately turned off the power supply to abort any possible attack on Windows.

    I don't see what FB has to offer because I'm in the category of I'm on there to stay in touch with relatives. And I get tired of unfollowing people who keep posting false/misleading content. Most of my friends/relative I don't follow.

    I keep reminding them if the text is in a picture ignore it it's click bait. They do it because they know it takes more effort to find the Snopes article proving it's bogus.

  2. Daekar

    *sigh* It's astonishing to me that Facebook is taking so much crap from people for refusing to play God and be the arbitrators of truth. They are the only SV company that can see beyond the ends of their noses.

    And they have a hate speech policy. It might not be perfectly enforced, but no one's is. All this Facebook boycott is nonsense.

    • Andi

      In reply to Daekar:

      Very well put. I think FB has walked a better line than Twitter in the US protest atmosphere. Every time I pointed that I got so much flak for being "complicit" with hate.

  3. hellcatm

    I wish now MS would pull out of their partnership with Facebook in gaming and just go in with Twitch.

  4. Pungkuss

    PR stunt by Microsoft. They just partnered with Facebook to make Facebook Gaming the onramp to xCloud. They have/had various investments into Facebook, but because a lot of other companies are not advertising on Facebook for the rest of the year Microsoft is doing the same.

    How about removing the ads you have in Windows Microsoft. That would help your users out better than boycotting Facebook.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to Pungkuss:

      This company is not one person. The need to dump Mixer and give/sell it to Facebook was a means to an end. This new move was separate and I'd bet no one from the Mixer team who dumped it on Facebook was consulted.

      • Pungkuss

        This move is framed as a moral one Nicholas, you can't pick and chose your morals. I disagree that the decision to partner with Facebook on xCloud and to suspend advertising on Facebook wasn't made by the same executive team. Those are massive moves that would require C-level signoff, most likely Nadella himself.
        In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      • christian.hvid

        In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

        Another reasonable explanation is that Microsoft has no desire at all to cut ties with Facebook - they want to remain friends and partners. But Facebook's controversial and irresponsible stance on political advertising and hate speech is tarnishing their reputation, and it's rubbing off on their commercial advertisers. I think Microsoft's message should be interpreted as "we're still friends but we want you to clean up your act" rather than "go f--k yourself".

  5. behindmyscreen

    In reply to Pungkuss:

    Uhh....Advertisers absolutely get to decide what shows they are shown with if they pay for the right.

    • Pungkuss

      Not on the internet they don't. They advertise to users not shows. It doesn't matter how popular a program is if the user you are targeting doesn't watch it. We can both watch the same Youtube vids and see totally different ads. That's because the ad is based on the user, not the show. Its why advertisers like the tracking internet companies do, it allows granularity. To act surprised when their ads show up on videos that they don't like is disingenuous, when they knew that ads followed the user and those users are free to watch whatever the heck they want.
      In reply to behindmyscreen:

  6. RobertJasiek

    In reply to red77star:

    Different aspects are involved:

    • 1) freedom of speech according to the different laws and their application in courts in each country,
    • 2) Facebooks' usage rules,
    • 3) some advertising companies disliking their ads to appear next to contents that these companies perceive as unacceptable there,
    • 4) these companies go farther than (3) and demand censorship stricter than (1),
    • 5) some countries require websites to delete speech "obviously" violating the laws,
    • 6) international laws also apply.

    One problem is that these aspects differ. The major problem is that these companies demand censorship that Facebook cannot enforce lawfully because, in most countries, it is the task of the courts to distinguish between allowed and prohibited speech (1) slightly modified by (2). Facebook could only censor defensively stricter than (1) to please the other companies but would at the same time violate (1).

    Unlawful speech must not be enforced by unlawful censorship but must be enforced at the courts. (Therefore, (5) is questionable because websites cannot replace the courts.)

  7. xcln

    Facebook is clearly evil in its intentions - only cares about money for its owners, didn't care that it was being used by the Russians to distort US elections as long as it could profit from the moves. And happy to create more divisions in the US population by segregating and engaging its members into self perpetuating silos/ echo chambers. No to mention abuse /disregard for user privacy.

  8. behindmyscreen

    In reply to Pungkuss:

    Ehhh...... tv actually does work like that. Advertisers get to decide if they care about what shows they appear on.

  9. davidl

    Seems like a rough start to their partnership to replace Mixer.

  10. Elindalyne

    Good. FB isn't going to change without more pressure like this.

  11. jimchamplin

    They partner with Facebook for game streaming at the same time they pull ads.

    Mixed messages?

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      Different parts of a huge company. One done to dump Mixer. Other one done for many reasons. I'm sure the Mixer team had no say so on this newest change nor should they.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

        Also, this wasn’t meant to be public. If MS had intended to give Facebook the finger - and they should - they’d have been public about the move.

        Facebook deserves the pile-on of the millennium. “Wiped out of existence” would be a great end for such a pox on the internet. :D

  12. fishnet37222

    In my opinion, Facebook censors too much. If you don't like what someone posts, either debate it or just hide it. If they keep posting stuff you don't like, block them or stop following them.

    • mrdrwest

      In reply to fishnet37222:

      What??? Did you actually R E A D what you typed?

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to fishnet37222:

      How would you know it if it censored too much? :)

    • christian.hvid

      In reply to fishnet37222:

      Unless Facebook has suddenly turned into a government agency, suppressing information or opinions they don't want to be associated with is by definition not censorship. Your local newspaper isn't required to print each and every letter to the editor, nor are social media required to publish anything and everything their users post. The same is true for advertising: every media company on the planet reserves the right to reject ads they find inappropriate, for any reason.

      It has nothing to do with censorship. It's all part of the civic responsibility publishers have - a responsibility that social media have largely avoided, thereby inflicting massive damage on the fabric of society (and even sparking outright genocides) in the name of profits and "free speech". Should Facebook and others decide that enough is enough, then I'm all for it.

      • payton

        In reply to christian.hvid:

        Hasn't Facebook's (and others') stance always been that they are a platform, not a publisher? A publisher is responsible for the content on its platform and thus is liable for it. They've argued that they are NOT liable for that content and so cannot be sued over it. It seems to me that they want it both ways. If they are a publisher, then by all means they need to curate the content--but they also have to own up to legal responsibility for it.

        • christian.hvid

          In reply to Payton:

          Yes, the "we're just a platform" has always been the fallback position for websites that operate on the fringes of what's legally or morally acceptable. The Pirate Bay argued that they couldn't be sued for copyright infringement, because all they did was providing a platform for private "culture sharing". This was kind of true until they started monetizing the uploaded content and turned their hobby site into a shady business.

          Since Facebook has always monetized and always been actively involved in the content on their site, I think it's only a matter of time before the platform argument falls apart completely. If they start curating - what some call censoring - content, it's merely a recognition of the fact that they're well on their way towards becoming publishers in the eyes of the law, whether they want it or not.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to fishnet37222:

      Thats like saying you own a road and it's not your business to patrol it to keep everyone who rides it safe? It's you're road so you decide what you do. You can get away with doing nothing but your riders might choose safer roads. This is what is happening to Facebook and Google had the same issue. When advertising pays the bills you have to put the advertisements on things the companies are ok with. Google for the longest time had people like Pepsi or Coke on some questionable Youtube shows. Some with guns and just crazy stuff. Now Pepsi or Coke don't want their brand on that. So Google pulls the advertising and people think they are censoring. The advertisers (customers of Google) are the one censoring and that is business. No different on Facebook. It's taken longer for the advertisers (MS) to say I don't want this association.

    • behindmyscreen

      In reply to fishnet37222:

      It's Facebook's playground. People that don't like abridged speech can go to cesspools like 8Chan. Advertisers are showing their displeasure with Facebook's allowance of certain speech getting shoved out into people's faces with their ad's attached to it so they are pulling their money in the hopes Facebook will start caring.

  13. chrisrut

    The first amendment doesn't give people the right to walk into a movie theatre and yell "Fire!" That was settled long ago. Spreading outright lies on Facebook - no matter the author - is different in scope of context, not in principle.

    Besides which: even if you have the right to do something, that doesn't mean it's always right to do it.