Disney cuts back on Facebook ad spending amid boycotts over hateful, false content, report says

Published 10:47 a.m. ET July 20, 2020 | Updated 11:15 a.m. ET July 20, 2020


Walt Disney World has reopened to the public but with many new precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Disney, one of Facebook's largest advertisers, has “dramatically slashed” its spending on the social media platform, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Disney pulled back on Facebook ads amid growing consternation over the platform's handling of hateful and divisive content.

The company joins hundreds of advertisers who said they would at least temporarily pause spending on Facebook ads. Civil rights groups such as the NAACP organized the Stop Hate for Profit boycott, which has drawn participation from the likes of Pfizer, Microsoft and Unilever.

Disney, which has not announced a boycott publicly, was the top advertiser on Facebook in the U.S. for the first half of 2020, according to ad database and marketing analytics firm Pathmatics provided to USA TODAY. From Jan. 1 through June 27, Disney spent $211 million on Facebook ads, which was about $95 million more than the top 10 Facebook boycotters combined as of early July, according to Pathmatics.

Boycotts pile up: Will the Facebook advertising boycott force the social media giant to change?

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The company was heavily promoting Disney , but ads for that new streaming service have been paused, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Facebook said it does not comment on individual advertisers but said in a statement that “we invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies. We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, (the Global Alliance for Responsible Media), and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”


After six years of pledges to close the racial gap, Facebook still struggles to hire, promote and retain Black and other underrepresented minorities.


Disney representatives did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Facebook said earlier this month that it's in the process of hiring a civil rights vice president who will report to the company's chief legal officer.

Criticism of the company has intensified since nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd brought the issue of racial justice to the forefront.

Facebook maintains it is making strides in identifying and removing misinformation and other harmful and divisive content.

“We have a long way to go – but we are making progress,” Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post after the release of a civil rights audit warning that Facebook’s failure to rein in toxic speech, racism and misinformation could have serious repercussions on the presidential election and may even suppress voter turnout.

Although Disney was Facebook's largest ad spender in the first half of 2020, the social media company's advertising base is diversified and resilient, in part because advertisers often say alternatives are few.

Facebook recently said it had more than 7 million active advertisers and more than 90 million business pages.

Stock analysts say it would take a significant wave of boycotters to put a major dent in the company's finances.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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