By Hamza Shaban

The Washington Post

One of the world’s largest advertisers is threatening to pull its ads from social sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, if the tech companies don’t do more to minimize divisive content on their platforms.

Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, called on Silicon Valley on Monday to better police what he describes as a toxic online environment where propaganda, hate speech and disturbing content that exploits children thrive.

“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children — parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us,” Weed said in a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, California. “It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this.”

Last year Unilever spent nearly $9.5 billion marketing its brands, including Dove, Lipton tea, Axe, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. One quarter of that budget, or about $2.4 billion, was spent on digital advertising.

Weed said that the company promises to boost more “responsible content” including ads that tackle gender stereotypes, and will only partner with digital networks that pledge to use an industry standard for ad metrics and improve consumer ad experiences. Weed said he has already begun discussions with Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Snap.

“[I]t is acutely clear from the groundswell of consumer voices over recent months that people are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of digital on well-being, on democracy — and on truth itself,” Weed said. “This is not something that can (be) brushed aside or ignored. Consumers are also demanding platforms which make a positive contribution to society.”