#StopHateForProfit and the Ethics of Boycotting by Corporations

Dr Theodore M. Lechterman
Event date
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12:30 - 13:45
St Cross College - Online via Zoom
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Lectures and seminars
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Disabled access?
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In June 2020, numerous companies that advertise on social media platforms withdrew their business, citing failures of the platforms (especially Facebook) to address the proliferation of harmful content.

Many were inspired by the #StopHateForProfit campaign initiated by the Anti-Defamation League. These events invite reflection on an understudied topic: the ethics of boycotting by corporations. Under what conditions is corporate boycotting permissible, required, supererogatory, or forbidden?

Although value-driven consumerism has generated significant recent discussion in applied ethics, that discussion has focused almost exclusively on the consumption choices of individuals. As this paper underscores, value-driven consumerism by business corporations complicates these issues and invites further research.

The paper argues that corporate boycotts represent extra-democratic tactics and, as such, should be undertaken only in exceptional circumstances and with specific constraints. However, there are at least certain cases where corporate boycotts appear to be morally required. These conclusions put pressure on prominent theories of corporate social responsibility, which either make no space for corporate boycotts or fail to demarcate that space. The paper also contributes to debates over how to hold social media platforms accountable.