Open Mortgage Pulls Ads from Facebook, Instagram in Massive Hate Speech Protest

Austin, Tex.-based multi-channel mortgage lender Open Mortgage announced on Wednesday that it is suspending its ad buying on social media platforms owned by Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook in protest of those platforms’ policies related to the proliferation of misinformation and hate speech, the company said.

The lender is joining prominent corporations including beverage maker The Coca-Cola Company, consumer packaged goods corporation Unilever, retail giant Target and auto manufacturer Ford — among many others — in a broader initiative called ”Stop Hate for Profit,” which asks major American brands to pause buying ads on Facebook and Instagram for the month of July.

Why Open Mortgage joined the initiative

“At Open Mortgage we believe better is possible and that’s why we choose to take a stand against the hate and misinformation that has been allowed to spread in the Facebook community,” said Open Mortgage founder and CEO Scott Gordon in the announcement of the company’s participation. “By withholding our money we want to convey that we do not condone racism and inspire reform. We hold firmly to the hope that positive change will happen when we stand together for what is right.”

Open Mortgage is the only reverse mortgage company which has joined the initiative, according to its announcement and the Stop Hate for Profit campaign’s list of participating businesses. The company also joined proactively, identifying an aligned mission with a company motto.

“We proactively joined the campaign after hearing what other advertisers were doing and because our mantra is ‘Where Better is Possible,'” said Paul Herrera, director of marketing at Open Mortgage in an email to RMD. “We felt we should join the campaign to help change things for the better.”

While the campaign itself has only requested partners to temporarily suspend ad buys on the platforms for the month of July, Herrera tells RMD that Open Mortgage will entertain the prospect of suspending its buys for a longer period.

“We strongly feel that we cannot advertise on a platform if it allows hate and false information to be circulated without being checked or removed,” Herrera said. “So, if Facebook does not make changes that we feel comfortable with then we will continue to not advertise on both [Facebook and Instagram].”

In terms of how this decision will affect the company’s outreach, Herrera says that the company employs an aggressive lead-generation strategy that involves both its forward and reverse mortgage channels across several online platforms, including Google, Bing, LinkedIn, trade publications as well as Facebook and Instagram.

“We advertise both forward and reverse mortgages on all Google, Bing, and up until recently Facebook and Instagram,” Herrera said. “Reverse leads were cheaper on Facebook but we will just reallocate those funds and optimize our campaigns to increase leads and conversions.”

Focus of the campaign

The focus on Facebook’s policies in regards to its moderation practices related to hate speech and misinformation are inadequate in light of rampant political polarization and instances of violence that have resulted in the deaths of African-Americans, according to an open letter to companies that advertise on Facebook written by the campaign.

“Our partner organizations have been working with Facebook for years and we’ll continue to work with them,” the coalition of companies said in an open letter posted to the website of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “But when it comes to dealing with rampant hate and harassment, the platform continues to come up short. What are they doing with $70 billion in revenue and $17 billion in profit? Their hate speech, incitement, and misinformation policies are inequitable. Their harassment victim services are inadequate. Their advertising placement’s proximity to hateful content is haphazard. And their ‘civil rights’ audit transparency reports aren’t helpful to the civil rights community.”

The ultimate goal of the campaign’s efforts is to spur greater action and accountability on the parts of Facebook and Instagram in terms of its content moderation policies, Open Mortgage said.

“The requests from the movement include providing greater support to those who have suffered from racism, antisemitism and hate,” Open Mortgage said in the announcement of its participation. “They also ask that Facebook cease generating revenue from misinformation and harmful content and that they increase safety for members of private groups.”

Stop Hate for Profit was created by a coalition of civil rights groups including NAACP, Color of Change, ADL, Free Press, Common Sense Media and Sleeping Giants. It is only asking businesses to pause their ad-buying on Facebook and not all organizations, including nonprofits.

“Many nonprofits rely on paid ads on Facebook to get their message out, especially as Facebook has increasingly limited the ability of organizations to organically reach audiences,” the campaign says. “Without paying, nonprofits fighting for the public interest would get drowned out by paid corporate advertisements.”

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