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Unilever threatens to pull online ads over toxic content

LONDON/FRANKFURT: Unilever, one of the world's biggest spenders on advertising, has threatened to pull ads from digital platforms such as Facebook and Google if they "create division" in society or fail to protect children.

Mr Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, which makes Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Dove soap, will explain the plan in an upcoming speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau conference in California.

Mr Weed will call on the technology industry to improve transparency and consumer trust in an era of fake news and "toxic" online content.

"Unilever, as a trusted advertiser, do not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society," Mr Weed plans to say, according to a copy of the speech seen beforehand.

The speech does not accuse any specific platform, but says trust in social media is at a new low due to a perceived lack of focus by tech firms in keeping illegal, unethical and extremist material off their websites.

Unilever also said it was committed to tackling gender stereotypes in advertising and will partner only with organisations committed to creating better digital infrastructure.

"Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children ... it is in the digital media industry's interest to listen and act on this," Mr Weed plans to say. - REUTERS

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