Unilever warns tech companies it could pull adverts from 'unsafe' sites

Illustration by Alex Castro  The Verge

The forceful warning to digital platforms such as Google and Facebook will be delivered at an advertising conference in California later on Monday.

The world's second largest advertiser, Unilever, is set to make a stand over online safety and pledge not to invest in any platforms which "create divisions in society".

In a statement issued ahead of his speech, Weed says: "As a brand-led business, Unilever needs its consumers to have trust in our brands".

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The comments from one of the world's largest online media buyers come as social networks face a barrage of criticism from lawmakers, brands and people worldwide over their role in how online misinformation, hate speech and other illegal material is shared across their platforms.

Facebook and Google have dominated the online ad market for years, thanks to their massive reach and vast amounts of data.

Facebook executives visiting Europe last month made a public show of contrition about the social media giant's slow response to abuses on its platform, seeking to avoid further legislation along the lines of a new hate speech law in Germany it says goes too far. The companies are estimated to have gobbled up more than 60% of digital ad spending in 2017.

The company, which sources 85% of its revenue from corporate posts and videos, announced in January that it would prioritize posts from friends and family over news stories and content from businesses.

Facebook, Twitter and Google, for example have been the focus of Congressional inquiry over how Russian agents may have used their platforms to buy ads or spread fake news items during the 2016 presidential election, often to fan flames of division over race, religion, gender and sexual preference.

"As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we can not have an environment where our consumers don't trust what they see online", he plans to say, according to the company. "The year where we collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society".

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