Big tech is not providing safe spaces for brands — why don’t brands care?

Guillaume Kendall
3 min readOct 25, 2021

BBC Panorama this week presented an investigation into the rise of online abuse against women. It’s a chilling watch where experts explain the bottom line for engagement and time spent on social media platforms — and how this helps their bottom line, no matter what the nature of the content may be. There are examples of abuse and threats received by a reporter as a case study. It’s uncomfortable, but it also needs to be something that all brand leaders and agencies should watch.

Social media influencers have a double-edged deal in their notoriety. While their profiles grow and follower numbers increase, so does the opportunity for bad actors online to send them abuse as they become a bigger target. The Panorama investigation shared research by Demos around Love Island and Married at First Sight, which showed that women and women of colour especially were receiving surprisingly large and vicious levels of abuse. Brands that work with these online celebrities take their notoriety as part of sponsorship and advertising deals, but are they being responsible when they likely know how these people are targeted? Is there a duty of care?

The BBC documentary says that new research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate suggests that 97% of accounts reported to Twitter and Instagram for targeting women with hate are not taken down. Though both companies say they do take action when accounts are reported and that closing accounts is not the only option.

In a shocking part of the program, dummy social media accounts were set up on different platforms with a leaning toward being critical to women. Because this profile’s content seemed to already like this, it was sent more and more severe material that advocated hatred and violence towards women.

Big tech’s responses to this tend to be about technology. That it is being developed and algorithms can be adjusted to stamp out hate, but as this documentary shows and no doubt anecdotal you will have heard from female friends, hate speech directed at women clearly still exists and it is possible that the engagement that is reaped from this material is useful for the bottom line of the platform.

Let’s call this out. The technology is not there. The moderation is not good enough and big tech is not doing enough to provide a duty of care for their users. So why are brands ignoring this behaviour?

It’s an elephant in the room, so obvious, but let’s say it anyway. Big tech does not provide a safe space for brands to engage with consumers. They provide a large audience but not enough is done to protect individuals, not enough is done to ensure that brands are not appearing alongside experiences of hate and violence or material that promotes abuse.

It’s time that brands put their conscience ahead of their audience targets. How about aiming to reach great people and engage with them, instead of trying to reach the most people and having your product or service appear alongside some of the worst characteristics of online society?

This is why we started Zedosh, to protect brands and offer agency to people about the ads they see. At the same time we are entering the debate about why brands care so little about the environments they pay to appear in. If you were a toy brand, you wouldn’t want to appear on TV during a horror movie, and family friendly brands online are at risk of showing up during tasteless and offensive content. Isn’t it time they took control of this situation and acknowledged some responsibility as they pay good money to place their ads?

We’re open to the debate. What do you think? Would you be happy for your brand to appear in a misogynistic environment? Or would you prefer a safer space for your brand to exist and flourish?

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Guillaume Kendall

Let’s stop giving away the wrong information and instead get rewarded for the right information! 🛸