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Exclusive: Viber severs ties with Facebook in growing boycott | Technology

3 min read

The messaging service Viber, the fifth biggest with more than a billion users around the world, is severing all ties to Facebook as part of a growing boycott of the company by commercial partners.

The campaign, initially started in the US after Facebook’s refusal to take action against posts from Donald Trump which critics said incited violence, has now grown to become an international movement.

Viber, owned by the Japanese conglomerate Rakuten, has its largest markets in eastern Europe, south-east Asia, and north Africa, and the company’s chief executive, Djamel Agaoua, said the move to cut ties was prompted by Facebook’s “poor judgment in understanding its role in today’s world”.

On Wednesday, Viber pulled all advertising from Facebook and its sister app Instagram. Now, the company has begun the more labour-intensive process of removing all Facebook technology from Viber’s own apps.

The company uses a number of Facebook tools, Agaoua said. Facebook Connect enables a “login with Facebook” button, common in apps and on websites across the world, while Viber also integrates with Giphy, an animated gif search engine that Facebook bought in May.

“It’s something that will hurt some of our users [who] like to use the Facebook Connect solutions to log in. It’s hurt some of our marketing strategies, because they won’t be able to use Facebook advertising to promote their campaigns. It’s not an easy decision. It’s not going to kill Viber, but it hurts,” Agaoua said.

“We are not the arbiters of truth, but the truth is some people are suffering from the proliferation of violent content and companies must take a clear stand.”

Viber’s decision comes as the advertising boycott which started the movement has also spread internationally. The UK arms of The North Face and Patagonia have both signed up to pull all advertising from the social network for the month of July.

“For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,” a Patagonia spokeswoman said. “From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred.”

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Ben & Jerry’s, the ice-cream brand known for its strong support for social justice, has also pulled its advertising from Facebook. But parent company Unilever, based in the UK, told the Guardian that while it supports Ben & Jerry’s move, it has not yet committed to do the same.

“As a global company, our approach has been and will continue to be to work in partnership to identify issues, offer solutions, and push for meaningful actions,” a spokesperson for Unilever said.

“While we have had some success and recognise the interventions our digital media partners have put in place such as establishing clearer community standards, comprehensive policies, protocols and third party audits, we know there is much more work to be done and we will be working with – and pushing – our partners to deliver the change that is needed.”

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