SodaStream Becomes First Israel-based Company to Join Facebook Boycott

Firm is joining over 100 others in America to support ADL, NAACP campaign protesting Facebook’s promotion of ‘hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence’ on its platform

Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking about "News Tab" at the Paley Center, New York, October 25, 2019.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking about "News Tab" at the Paley Center, New York, October 25, 2019.Credit: Mark Lennihan/AP
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Six years ago, the Anti-Defamation League was defending the Israeli company SodaStream against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which had targeted the Israeli company because of its operations in the West Bank, castigating the boycotters for “promoting divisiveness.”

The ADL warmly praised celebrity spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson for her “principled opposition to those who have sought to use her” to “promote a divisive and highly politicized campaign designed to cause economic harm to the company and its hundreds of employees.”

These days, though, it is SodaStream lining up behind an ADL campaign and both parties are supporting a boycott.

Together with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, ADL is leading the Stop Hate for Profit campaign to convince companies to pull their advertising from Facebook, which they accuse of promoting “hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence” across its platform.

SodaStream is the first Israel-based company to jump aboard, pledging not to support the social media giant for the month of July in order to “hit pause on hate.”

SodaStream, which produces home seltzer machines, was purchased by PepsiCo for $3.2 billion in 2018, but remains based in Israel. Following years of controversy, it closed its factory in the West Bank at the end of 2015, moving all of its operations within Israel proper.

SodaStream's factory in a Negev industrial zone. It closed its West Bank plant in 2015.
SodaStream's factory in a Negev industrial zone. It closed its West Bank plant in 2015.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Now, both SodaStream and Pepsi have joined over 100 other companies in the United States who have responded to the call for a boycott. Pepsi’s biggest competitor, Coca-Cola, has also signed on, along with Starbucks, Hershey’s, Vans, Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever, Verizon, Ford and Best Buy.

The aim of the campaign is to send Facebook a “powerful message” of protest against policies that “allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America” and “turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression on their platform.”

The campaign also accuses the company, which makes tens of billions of dollars each year in advertising profits, of refraining from “calling out Holocaust denial as hate.”

On Friday, Facebook attempted to stem the tide of protest against its failure to better police hate speech and divisive rhetoric on its platform, which had caused its stock price to drop. The company announced that it would flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from President Donald Trump.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump posts suggesting that mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Twitter, by contrast, slapped a “get the facts” label on them.

“The policies we’re implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they’re showing up across our community,” Facebook CEO Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page when announcing the changes.

Zuckerberg said the social network is taking additional steps to counter election-related misinformation. In particular, the social network will begin adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.

Facebook is also banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places. The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the U.S. election.

Pressure on Facebook to tighten its policies is intensifying as the November presidential election draws closer.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had his own complaints about Facebook during his multiple election campaigns over the past year. However, he was complaining about overzealousness when it came to setting limits on speech.

In February, Netanyahu called Zuckerberg ahead of the country’s third election in less than a year to complain that during the previous election in September, the social media platform had suspended a bot that Netanyahu was using to send automatic messages to Likud activists because of a message from Netanyahu’s account. The message read: “The Arabs want to destroy us all – women, children and men.”

On Election Day itself, Facebook again suspended Netanyahu’s bot after he twice used it to publish polls, since Israeli law bars the publishing of polls on Election Day. Two hours later, Central Elections Committee Chairman Hanan Melcer ordered Facebook to let the bot resume operations.

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