Facebook, Twitter shares drop as European giant Unilever pulls ads

The European consumer-product maker, Unilever, said it took the move to protest against online hate speech.

Shares of social media platforms Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply on Friday after Unilever, the the giant company behind brands such as Ben & Jerry's and Dove, said it will halt the US advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram through at least the end of the year.

European consumer-product maker, Unilever, said it took the move to protest the amount of hate speech online. Unilever said the polarised atmosphere in the United States ahead of November's presidential election placed responsibility on brands to act.

Shares of both Facebook and Twitter fell roughly seven percent following Unilever's announcement.

The company, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms. Facebook, in particular, has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.

"We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media news feed platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in the US," Unilever said. Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society, the company stated.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, Verizon joined others in the Facebook boycott.

Sarah Personette, Vice President of global client solutions at Twitter, said the company's mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.

She added that Twitter is "respectful of our partners' decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time."

Earlier this month, Facebook removed nearly 200 social media accounts linked to white supremacy groups that planned to encourage members to attend protests over police killings of black people, in some cases with weapons, company officials said

(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)

Edited by Kanishk Singh