The World Federation of Advertisers backs NZ's call for action against Facebook

By Chris Pash | 28 March 2019

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has backed the New Zealand advertising industry's call for global action to ensure there is no repeat of the live-streaming of the Christchurch attack on Facebook.

The announcement was made at the opening of the WFA Global Marketer Conference in Lisbon, which brings together more than 800 industry leaders, 80% of whom are brand owners.

Advertising agencies and advertisers in New Zealand say Facebook has been dishing up "platitudes" over community concerns following the broadcast of acts of violence from Christchurch.

The Association of New Zealand Advertisers, the industry body representing advertisers, and the Commercial Communications Council of New Zealand, representing advertising and media agencies, say a repeat of the broadcast of violent acts could happen at any time around the world.

The New Zealanders have called on advertisers globally to consider suspending advertising on Facebook until its live-streaming functionality is either taken down or sufficient controls are put in place.

The WFA is calling on its members and brands worldwide, in their capacity as the funders of the online advertising system, to put pressure on platforms to do more to prevent their services and algorithms from being hijacked by those with malicious intent.

The call comes after multiple incidents including paedophile comments being left below videos of children on YouTube, the glorification of self-harm and suicide content on Instagram and the live-streaming of the terrorist attack in New Zealand on Facebook.

WFA says it is standing alongside colleagues at the Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA), which has issued a call asking for members to think carefully about where they place advertising.

“This is not an issue of brand safety, this is a moral question to hold social media platforms to account – in the same way we do for traditional media,” says ANZA chief executive Lindsay Mouat.

Facebook says it removed the attacker’s video within minutes of being notified by NZ Police. It said: "We remain shocked and saddened by this tragedy and are committed to working with leaders in New Zealand, other governments, and across the technology industry to help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism."

Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA, says marketers must reflect on the extent and terms on which they fund social media platforms.

"Conversely, the platforms must do more to assuage the growing number of advertiser concerns. WFA is committed to working with the platforms in a constructive manner in order to find solutions to these grave problems," he says.

"For our shared goal must be to build an ecosystem that is sustainable and doesn’t undermine people, communities and society at large."

Raja Rajamannar, WFA president and chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, says online platforms play an important role in shaping cultures and mobilising communities around the world.

"This means brands and platforms must assume a higher level of responsibility to ensure these online environments are forces for good, not conflict or violence," he says.

"That begins with acknowledging flaws and quickly investing in lasting solutions. To drive change we need less debate and more action."

The World Federation of Advertisers represents 90% of global marketing communications spend, about USD900 billion a year.

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