Pernod Ricard plans app for social media users to report hate speech

Drinks maker believes brands should take action on hate speech beyond July's Stop Hate for Profit ad boycott.

Pernod Ricard: owns brands including Absolut
Pernod Ricard: owns brands including Absolut

Pernod Ricard is creating a crowdsourcing app that will allow social media users to report content they find "objectionable" directly to brands, which will then use their influence to force social platforms to review and remove the content in question – although how exactly this will work remains to be seen.

The world's second-largest wine and spirits seller said it wants to "find more solutions" to stopping the spread of hate speech, racism and misinformation on social platforms beyond the Stop Hate for Profit ad boycott taking place in July. Pernod Ricard is supporting the movement and has said it will pause spend on social platforms for the next 30 days.

But Pernod Ricard US chief executive Ann Mukherjee said this boycott "is not sufficient".

"The big question is: what happens August 1st?" Mukherjee asked. "We need more action and more people within the industry to find more solutions. Companies like ours can and should play a bigger role in problem-solving than just withholding advertising dollars. We can create tools that make it easier for consumers’ voices to be heard when they see hate speech spreading online."

The basic premise of the app is to "create a space for collaboration between consumers and brands". Social media users can flag hate speech they see on social platforms in the app and then the brand – currently just Pernod Ricard – can push the platforms to take action "if warranted".

But it's unclear how Pernod Ricard will define hate speech and decide what is warranted for action. Social platforms each have their own policies on hate speech and the removal of content. It is not clear if the app will fall in line with these policies or push for an extension of them.

In the release announcing the initiative, Pernod Ricard said a critical element of the move will be creating a governance, transparency and accountability structure from the outset. It said it will establish strict guidelines related to data privacy and consumer-engagement standards, as well as an oversight and reporting protocol, executed by an expert third party, to ensure the highest levels of accountability and transparency.

It is currently identifying partners to develop the app.

Pernod Ricard wants other brands "big and small" to join the initiative.

"Our hope is that all brands are inspired to take action on this issue in ways that make sense for them and align with their values," Mukherjee said.

Social media users can already report content using various signals such as hate speech, misinformation, terrorism, violence and spam within the platforms, and they are then reviewed by the platforms' internal policy teams and external fact-checkers. But Pernod Ricard believes brands can play a part in pushing for greater action in this process.

The initiative is spearheaded by Pernod Ricard US's new chief marketing officer, Pam Forbus, who "recognised the opportunity" when she arrived at the company less than two weeks ago.

"We know our consumers feel a sense of urgency about this issue and so do we," Forbus said. "As a non-traditional CMO, I am bringing my deep experience in data, advanced analytics and social media manipulation to help leverage AI capability as we become part of the solution. We want to ensure that all people have access to safe, responsible social environments."

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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