BOSTON (CBS) – Could this be the beginning of the end for big tech’s foot-dragging response to the manipulation of their social-media platforms by bad actors, foreign and domestic?
A top executive for Unilever – parent company of hundreds of global brands and the second-largest marketing spender in the world – says trust in social media is at an all-time low, and the halting attempts of the brass at Facebook, Google and others to deal with that need to accelerate.
“People are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of digital on well being, on democracy – and on truth itself,” said Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed. “This is not something that can be brushed aside or ignored.”
But will the companies listen?
It was one thing for the big tech executives to appease US senators at a hearing last fall, offering bromides and superficial contrition.
But now advertising Unilever has made them an offer they can’t refuse: clean up your platforms or kiss our ad dollars goodbye.
Previous efforts to spin the flaws in their business model as unanticipated glitches have run afoul of public statements by Facebook co-founders admitting they knew from the start their social media creation was potentially toxic.
“The short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works – no civil discourse no cooperation misinformation, mistruth,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, a Facebook co-founder.
That has left tech bigwigs scrambling to protect their images, with a recent Facebook statement claiming: “As Mark Zuckerberg said on the last earnings call, we are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made.”
And now Unilever is saying – do it now, or we’ll reduce your profits for you.