No money for hate machines - Unilever does the right thing.

In contrast to other brands that have joined the #StopHateForProfit advertising boycott on Facebook and Co, Unilever does not blame specific actors but a technical structure for polarization, the news feeds - including that of the elitist Twitter. This is how social responsibility works: #NoMoneyForPolarization

By the end of the year: $50 million will flow not to Facebook, Insta, Twitter but to non-polarizing media outlets

Advertisers, as is all too rarely discussed, bear an outstanding responsibility for the media landscape and the political culture of media opinion-forming in a society with their advertising budgets. With every ad they place, they ensure the functioning of the media, and ultimately freedom of the press and freedom of opinion. In this way, they bear a great responsibility every day for the state of society, which is their sales market.

Unilever showed how to live up to this social responsibility last Friday. The U.S. subsidiary of the English advertising giant has decided to withdraw all advertising funds from the hate machines called "social media" by the end of the year. A roughly estimated USD 50 million will explicitly not be saved in the U.S., but will be deliberately withdrawn and invested in "other media" that do not have a polarizing effect.

According to Unilever's statement, the move is directed against all operators of "social media newsfeed platforms". In addition to Facebook and Instagram, this also includes Twitter, the leading medium for media professionals.

The advertising giant's move may retroactively prove to be a milestone - for the preservation of an open, liberal and pluralistic society that is threateningly eroding because of fragmented news feeds.

Why is Unilver doing this?

At this point first a correction: No, Unilever explicitly does not join the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign, like e.g. its ice cream brand "Ben & Jerry's". Anyone who reads the surprisingly infrequently linked rationale (here's the blogpost : must drop this framing. There are not even indirect references to this or other campaigns in the text. Nor are there any direct or indirect references to "racism," "sexism," or any of the other "-isms" that are self-evidently rejected once named. If you search, you will also not find any references in the statement to expressions of opinion or content that are condemned or rejected.

Instead, one finds references to Unilever's own accountability, its own set of rules, and its own actions in a "culturally complex landscape." Here, someone is taking a look at his own nose. Good thing!

Unilever's rationale is titled: "Supporting a responsible digital ecosystem in these polarized times." Unilever writes that it has always led the way in improving the "digital supply chain" (meaning the available ad inventory), be it "viewability, measurement, ad fraud or brand safety". But now, in a "polarized atmosphere," it's time to hold the platforms accountable for social responsibility.

He said there is "a lot more work to be done, especially on divisiveness and hate speech during the polarized time of the election campaign."

Divisiveness through news feeds

Divisiveness - what an apt word. Remarkably, Unilever does not blame any particular actors or opinions for the disintegration and divisiveness of society, but rather a technical structure, a particular media platform: "social media newsfeeds".

Newsfeeds are the only opponent Unilever mentions by name in its statement. And newsfeeds on Facebook, Insta and Twitter are henceforth, until "at least the end of the year," no longer to be financed by Unilever advertising money. That's because ads on polarizing platforms like Twitter would "not create value for people and society."

"No value for people and society" - with this criticism not only the others, the "bad guys" (Nazis etc) are meant, who "abuse" a platform. Meant are also the "good guys". Because they are on the same platform as their opponents. And they behave structurally just like their opponents. The polarizing platform mechanisms do not allow anything else.

How newsfeeds work

You know each other, network and confirm each other; you share friends content and opinions; you constantly confirm each other, solidarity patting on the shoulder and "engaged" for everything possible, but not for dissenters and deviants; you form identity in small groups; you constantly draw attention to the "hate" of others; you close the ranks and feel in the fight behaves; you behave exactly as if you were threatened from the outside. And then some start to look for the threat out there... enmity.

Polarization has technical reasons

It is the mode of operation that turns "social" into hate machines, not the content. Those who book advertising in newsfeed media finance the transporting, grouping and favoring of information through technically inscribed pre-judgments (algorithmic rules before content distribution). These rules are not based on diversity and plurality, but on "engagement" and similar user characteristics (profiles, graphs). The result is total conformity, each quite different, in atomized, disconnected micro-groups that never meet again. Thus, disagreement first gets out of practice, then it is unlearned, finally all dissent is simply "outrageous."

Has anyone ever seen a clearer confirmation of McLuhan's dictum that "the medium is the message"? Newsfeeds pretend to be "social," but with their mechanisms they sow a discord that is almost pandemic, completely independent of the content.


  1. A society that wants freedom needs diversity and media that do not polarize.
  2. It is about the destructive mechanisms of newsfeeds and not about unpopular content
  3. Stopping advertising funding for these mechanisms paid for exclusively by advertisers is exactly the right thing to do
  4. In this country, too, advertisers should stop financing what is harmful to our society.
  5. Thank you, Unilever. And hello OWM: #NoMoneyForPolarization.