The agreement, which has taken more than a year to negotiate, requires social media platforms to undergo an independent audit of how they are categorizing, reporting and eliminating harmful content. The goal is to conduct these reviews by the end of the year, or have a plan in place to implement them.
The platforms will also be required to develop systems that give advertisers more control over the type of content that their brands appear alongside.
“As funders of the online ecosystem, advertisers have a critical role to play in driving positive change and we are pleased to have reached agreement with the platforms on an action plan and timeline,” WFA CEO Stephan Loerke said in a statement.
It covers 11 broad topics, ranging from explicit sexual content and crime to drug use, piracy, arms and ammunition and “sensitive social issues.” A brand safety “floor” is established for each area, which details when the content would be unsuitable for adjacent advertising, such as the excessive use of profane language.
The areas are then graded according to risk, which could in some cases allow for advertising to appear such as when it relates to news articles or educational material on the topic.
“This is not a declaration of victory,” global responsible marketing officer at Mars, Jacqui Stephenson said in a statement. “There is much work to be done and we rely on all of our platform partners to follow through on their commitments with the pace and urgency these issues demand.”
“While change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction,” added Luis Di Como, Unilever’s executive vice president for global media.
Facebook’s vice president for global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, on Wednesday described the agreement with advertisers as an “uncommon collaboration” that gives the industry a “unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”
One of the groups, the Anti-Defamation League, said that Wednesday’s announcement is an “early step” but shows what can be achieved through collective action like the advertising freeze. “These commitments must be followed in a timely and comprehensive manner, to ensure they are not the kind of empty promises that we have seen too often from Facebook,” the organization’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.