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Facebook Makes Significant Changes to Content Policies Amid Advertiser Boycott

Several major advertisers pledged to pull ad dollars from Facebook, citing its inaction on hateful content.
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With a growing advertiser boycott pummeling shares, Facebook  (FB)  CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday announced several changes to the social network's content policies. 

Zuckerberg detailed the changes in a live broadcast and a Facebook post, writing that the company "will take extra precautions" to safeguard the platform in the run-up to the U.S. election in November. These changes include taking down false information about voting and implementing a new labeling system for "newsworthy" posts that would otherwise violate its policies.

Facebook plunged 8.3% to $216.08 on Friday after Unilever  (UN) , a major global advertiser, said it will halt spending on Facebook's platforms through this year. Procter & Gamble  (PG) , the world's largest advertiser by total expenditures as of 2019, also said this week it was weighing a similar pullout from Facebook. 

The boycott was precipitated by Facebook's inaction on incendiary content, notably a post by President Trump that referred to shooting protesters, which invoked a phrase with a racist history. That sparked pressure from civil rights groups, and some of Facebook's own employees, for the company to do more to stem racist, violent and other offensive content.

Zuckerberg didn't mention the advertiser boycott in his post on Friday, but said the policy changes were partly the result of feedback from civil rights groups. 

In addition to stepping up enforcement of voting-related misinformation, Facebook will ban posts that make false claims about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) presence at voting stations, as well as threats of "coordinated interference" that can intimidate voters. 

The company will also ban a wider range of hateful content in ads, according to Zuckerberg, by prohibiting "claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others."

Marking a first for Facebook, the company recently removed ads by Trump's re-election campaign that contained a symbol associated with Nazi concentration camps, citing a policy against "organized hate." 

To date, Facebook has not removed or labeled a post from President Trump himself, a policy decision that has generated much controversy for the social media giant. Twitter  (TWTR) has labeled posts by Trump that glorify violence or contain false information. Facebook's policies, contain an exemption for "newsworthy" posts by world leaders. 

Moving forward, however, Zuckerberg said Facebook will begin adding a label to certain content it deems newsworthy, to "allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content." No exceptions for world leaders will be made for posts that violate any of Facebook's updated ad and content policies, however, including any content that incites violence or suppresses voting, he wrote. 

Facebook shares are up 4% year to date.