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Should businesses pull Facebook ads after Christchurch?

It might not be as easy as it sounds.

Jack Derwin

Digital Journalist, Your Money

After a shooter opened fire on a mosque in Christchurch, killing more than 50 people and filming the first horrific 15 minutes, there was public outrage over social media giants’ slow reaction to shut down the live stream.

In the wake of the incident, governments demanded better while some New Zealand companies like Bank of NZ announced they would pull advertising from Facebook and Google in response.

Read: Have the social media giants lost control?

But how easy is it for businesses to pull ads from social media platforms?

“If this had been Channel Nine News, Channel Seven News, Channel 10 News, could we have taken our ads off? Absolutely,” Appliances Online founder John Winning said.

“If it had been my dad in his time running the Winning Appliances business when Facebook advertising would be less than a single [per cent] of what gives you revenue, it would be easy,” he added.

But for many online businesses traditional advertising only makes up a small percentage of their advertising spend, with Google and Facebook taking the lion’s share.

“For most small businesses and even some of the large traditional businesses, to pull ads off Facebook would be an easy decision. But for a pure-play online retailer business, where almost 50 per cent of our digital advertising spend is predominately on social media platforms and a big majority of that being on Facebook… for us to pull our Facebook advertising would probably almost destroy our business,” Winning explained.

“I would be letting off probably 100 of our team members because of the drop in the revenue and the business we would be left with,” he said.

“If I then took it off Google, because Google owns YouTube and YouTube also ran the stream, I would probably not be [using] 80 per cent of my advertising spend,” he added.

“Facebook and Google advertising is my entire business.”

It’s not the first time that Winning has seen a push to boycott advertising.

“We were advertising with Channel Seven when they ran a segment on African gangs in Melbourne and we got hate mail, we had people boycotting our services, and we had trolls online saying people should never shop at Winning Appliances because they advertise on Channel Seven News,” Winning explained.

“Just to hush some of the noise that was created, we pulled our ads… it was too much of a distraction for us.”

Given the difficulty online businesses face in boycotting social giants, former CEO of Facebook in Australia Stephen Scheeler believes there is a responsibility on governments to intervene.

“In the case of Facebook, it could turn off live stream tomorrow, there’s nothing that prevents it from doing it,”  Scheeler told the same panel. “[But] it doesn’t have enough incentive to turn it off.”

“There have to be bigger penalties that are applied.”

With the problem being a global one, it remains unclear who exactly will spearhead the movement, but with the Christchurch shooting making waves around the world, it’s our leaders in the Pacific that need to stand up, Scheeler said.

“Australia and New Zealand now have the moral authority to lead on this issue.”

Watch the full Taking Stock panel discussion above.

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