You are here: Home » Companies
Business Standard
Web Exclusive

Zero tolerance: Brands take stock of hate speech and trolls

By putting their foot down on toxic content, advertisers are signalling where their priorities lie and their commitment to tackle the issue head on

Mumbai 

This is article Banner

Earlier this year, two of the world’s largest consumer goods companies — Procter & Gamble and Unilever — did something unusual. They said they would get off online platforms that had toxic content including Google, Facebook and Youtube. The statement put the spotlight firmly on an issue fermenting for long. While social media bridges the gap between brands and consumers, it also at times leaves a trail of backlash and trolls. In some cases, brand messages could be sitting next to content that is discriminatory or pornographic or has terror links, putting companies in a spot. The alarming rate at which this is growing has led to social media now taking strict action against all this. “It is imperative for online platforms to make their users feel safe; ensure there are enough and more reasons to make them come back. Hate speech, bullying and harassment is rampant and has to be tackled at various levels. This is not a one-time activity. Intelligence needs to evolve,” says Harsh Shah, vice president, client services, Dentsu Webchutney. Some experts argue that the ball cannot be put in social media’s court alone. Brands have a responsibility too, they say, to have effective systems and processes in place to counter instances of hate speech against them. ALSO READ: How must brands fight online trolls without sullying their reputations? “While the intent is noble, monitoring the long tail of publishers and content providers on platforms such as Google, Facebook and YouTube is difficult,” says the head of a top digital agency. “Google, for instance, manages display ads for these publishers and content providers through its AdSense network on a revenue-share basis and limiting content therefore is not a feasible exercise for it,” he says. Recently, ride sharing app Ola found itself in the midst of a storm when a customer tweeted about cancelling a cab ride because of the driver’s faith. While Twitter refused to take down the post, saying it did not violate their community guidelines, Ola responded to the tweet saying it did not support discrimination, nipping the issue in the bud. Globally too brands have reacted quickly to hateful and negative comments, ensuring a positive atmosphere exists around their brands. MAC Cosmetics, for example, had to delete numerous racist comments some time ago after posting a picture of a black woman’s lips on its Instagram account. The derogatory remarks also saw a follow-up message from the brand saying it was for “all ages, races, sexes”.

Sportswear brand Adidas was also hit by a barrage of comments lately after an Instagram post of two pair of feet (of a female couple) wearing the same set of shoes evoked sharp reactions from people. Adidas chose to not delete the comments, instead responding to each message with a kiss emoji. ZERO TOLERANCE * Advertisers are sending a firm message they will not tolerate hate speech * Online platforms are now taking note of this * Brands are developing internal processes to tackle trolling * Tracking online chatter and buzz is key to this * Prompt reply to negative feedback is one way used by brands to protect integrity * Purging bots and fake accounts is another way, used by online platforms No hit and run While hate speech and trolls don’t affect a brand directly, it is very important for its consumers, says Shah, that brands take a stand. Millennials and digital natives in particular are especially cognizant of this and expect brands to be socially-conscious and responsible. Hit and run, says Shah, cannot be permitted at all here. Some experts point to the need for brands to be aware of conversations beyond their social media accounts. “Brands have to set in place systems to monitor such social media buzz and chatter around them as well as their competitors. If a brand rant begins, it may choose to ignore it initially. However, at some stage, it may need to take action,” says Ambi Parameswaran, founder, brand-building.com Brands such as State Bank of India, for instance, had to bear the full brunt of Twitter users’ tendency to opine uninhibitedly. The public sector lender was flooded with a volley of complaints regarding poor service recently soon after it went live on Twitter, forcing it go off the platform owing to its inexperience in handling the issue. The lender subsequently returned to the platform only after taking help from experts on the matter. Fake accounts and bots are another menace that confront advertisers. Shah of Webchutney says fake accounts affect the quality of engagement between brands and consumers, prompting companies to curtail digital spends. This has far and wide implications for the financial health of online platforms, since most depend on advertising money in a big way. “In recent years, fake accounts have been a big issue, prompting Twitter to purge millions of such accounts. Facebook too has been actively terminating bots and accounts to weed out the problem,” says Shah. In the January-March period of calendar year 2018, for instance, Facebook disabled as many as 583 million fake accounts, most of which were disbanded within minutes of registration. While the social media giant claims its technology doesn’t work well for hate speech, it still managed to remove as much as 2.5 million such pieces in Q1 2018 — 38 per cent of which was flagged off by its own technology. Google too is investing in artificial intelligence to help it identify users promoting vitriol and hate. For brands and online platforms, it is one step at a time.

MONTHLY STAR

Business Standard Digital

Business Standard Digital Monthly Subscription
149.00  
subscribe
Complete access to the premium product
Convenient – Pay as you go
Pay using Master/Visa Credit Card & ICICI VISA Debit Card
Auto renewed (subject to your card issuer’s permission)
Cancel any time in the future
Requires personal information

What you get?

ON BUSINESS STANDARD DIGITAL

  • Unlimited access to all the content on any device through browser or app.
  • Exclusive content, features, opinions and comment – hand-picked by our editors, just for you.
  • Pick 5 of your favourite companies. Get a daily email with all the news updates on them.
  • Track the industry of your choice with a daily newsletter specific to that industry.
  • Stay on top of your investments. Track stock prices in your portfolio.
  • 18 years of archival data.

NOTE :

  • The product is a monthly auto renewal product.
  • Cancellation Policy: You can cancel any time in the future without assigning any reasons, but 48 hours prior to your card being charged for renewal. We do not offer any refunds.
  • To cancel, communicate from your registered email id and send the email with the cancellation request to assist@bsmail.in. Include your contact number for speedy action. Requests mailed to any other ID will not be acknowledged or actioned upon.

SMART MONTHLY

Business Standard Digital

Business Standard Digital - 12 Months
1499.00
subscribe
Get 12 months of Business Standard digital access
Single Seamless Sign-up to Business Standard Digital
Convenient - Once a year payment
Pay using an instrument of your choice - Credit/Debit Cards, Net Banking, Payment Wallets accepted
Exclusive Invite to select Business Standard events

What you get

ON BUSINESS STANDARD DIGITAL

  • Unlimited access to all content on any device through browser or app.
  • Exclusive content, features, opinions and comment – hand-picked by our editors, just for you.
  • Pick 5 of your favourite companies. Get a daily email with all the news updates on them.
  • Track the industry of your choice with a daily newsletter specific to that industry.
  • Stay on top of your investments. Track stock prices in your portfolio.

NOTE :

  • This product is a monthly auto renewal product.
  • Cancellation Policy: You can cancel any time in the future without assigning any reasons, but 48 hours prior to your card being charged for renewal. We do not offer any refunds.
  • To cancel, communicate from your registered email id and send the mail with the request to assist@bsmail.in. Include your contact number for easy reference. Requests mailed to any other ID will not be acknowledged or actioned upon.
First Published: Fri, June 22 2018. 19:48 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU