After receiving a complaint from a reader connected to Stop Funding Hate, Danish toymaker Lego announced it would withdraw toy giveaway promotions from the Daily Mail. Meanwhile, British retailer John Lewis has been suffering pressure from its own staff and partners (and even from the music band in its popular #BusterTheBoxer ad) to pull out from the tabloids. In solidarity with the campaign, a British novelist has asked her publisher to stop sending books for the tabloids to review.
The collective pullout of advertisers has had catastrophic effects before for one of the most widely read English-language newspapers in the world, now defunct. The notorious phone hacking scandal surrounding News of the World led to an advertising exodus, which in turn helped lead to the tabloid’s shutdown in 2011 after 168 years in print.
Talking with the ECPMF, Richard Wilson, the founder of the Stop Funding Hate movement, stated that they “do not want to see any publication closed down. We are not calling for any publication to be removed from sale. People must be free to buy The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express if they wish. Equally, customers of companies such as Lego and John Lewis are fully within their rights in seeking to influence the advertising choices of those companies through polite and friendly persuasion.”
At a time when hate crime is rising and newspapers are systematically demonising whole sections of our society, people have a right to say ‘not with my money’. This, too, is a matter of freedom of choice, and freedom of expression.”
Stop Funding Hate has caught on more quickly than Wilson expected, and attracted the attention of big media outlets internationally, to which he has also given interviews. The tabloids in question have declined to comment when approached by other media.
"What we're hoping to do, is to pressure companies that we shop with to change who they advertise with and change this hate-filled discourse for a more human way of talking about each other”, Wilson told the BBC’s Newsbeat. “It's going to keep happening until the financial balance changes and if we can get to the point where actually you don't make money by publishing these headlines, you lose money because advertisers are going to walk away.”
Necessity or censorship?
An April 2015 Sun article calling migrants “cockroaches”, besides other insults, led the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicly call for a collective curbing of hate speech incited specifically “by British tabloid newspapers”. The statement was reportedly the catalyst for the founding of Stop Funding Hate by Wilson, a former employee of Amnesty International and vocal author concerned with issues of violence in Africa (where his own sister was killed in an attack).