Unilever tells Facebook and Google: Drain the 'swamp' or lose advertising

Unilever has threatened to boycott Facebook and Google if the tech giants fail to efficiently police extremist and illegal content.

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"We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there"s some unintended consequences that now need addressing," Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, said Monday.

In a speech delivered at the Interactive Advertising Bureau"s annual leadership meeting in Palm Desert, California, Weed said tech companies were to blame for creating a "swamp" in which fake news and criminal content were being circulated.

Unilever, which makes Ben & Jerry"s ice cream and Dove soap, said the tech space needed to review transparency measures and improve consumer trust in an era of illegal content.

Google and Facebook: We're listening to corporate feedback

Late last year, the European Commission warned the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter that it was considering legislation if self-regulation continued to fail. And at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May urged investors to put pressure on tech companies to respond more quickly to extremist content on social networks.

In response, Google has since announced it would dedicate over 10,000 staff to tackling extremist content on YouTube in 2018 while Facebook has said it will be using artificial intelligence to detect images, videos and text related to terrorism.

Unilever's Dove bath foam, seen in a Chinese supermarket
Zhang Peng | Getty Images
Unilever's Dove bath foam, seen in a Chinese supermarket

Facebook and Google, part of Alphabet, were estimated to have approximately half of online ad revenue worldwide in 2017, according to research firm eMarketer. In the U.S., both tech companies were thought to have over 60 percent of the market share.

Both Facebook and Google reportedly said they were listening to Unilever"s calls to improve the industry.

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