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Several Pharma Companies Join Facebook Ad Boycott

July 6, 2020 – Bayer AG, Merck KGaA, Novartis, Pfizer and Vertex are joining other major advertisers in support of a July Facebook ad boycott (#StopHateForProfit), a campaign started by six civil rights organizations – the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color Of Change, Free Press and Common Sense – that calls on corporate advertisers to stop running their ads on the social media platform to protest Facebook’s unwillingness to  “take significant steps to remove political propaganda from its platform,” according to Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.

The movement began via an ad in the Los Angeles Times that called on advertisers to send Facebook “a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.” Johnson told MSNBC June 25 that Facebook has “fanned the flames of racial hatred, and altered the course of our democracy, and they refuse to do anything about it. … They are probably one of the biggest threats to democracy that we see.”

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said in a June 29 statement that Pfizer would be removing its ads from Facebook and Instagram for the month of July, because “it’s clear that to live our value of Equity, demonstrating respect for all people and making it clear that any hate speech is unacceptable, we must speak up and take action.” Bourla also asked Facebook “to take proactive steps to ensure their platforms are safe and trusted spaces for all.”

Nearly 1,000 companies have joined the July boycott. Medical Marketing and Media (MM&M) reported that 39 pharmaceutical companies paused ads on Juneteenth weekend, and that 31 of those brands “had done so again on July 1.” MM&M also reported that “out of 90 pharma Rx brands that, according to AdComplyRx, ran digital ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram ads last month, 39 (43%) paused for Juneteenth weekend and 58 (64%) paused on July 1.

“The mission of the Coalition for Healthcare Communications is to defend the free flow of accurate and credible health information—and both halves of that mission are equally important,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director Jon Bigelow. “We are very concerned about the increasing torrent of misinformation on Facebook and other social media, and are particularly opposed to the role of social media in spreading dangerous claims and hateful speech.”