The World Federation of Advertisers has called on all brands globally to hold social media companies to account in light of recent failures to block dangerous and hateful content.

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The World Federation of Advertisers is the global voice of marketers worldwide, representing 90 per cent of global marketing spend or roughly US$900 billion (NZ$1.3 trillion) per annum.

The announcement was made yesterday in Lisbon in front of 800 industry leaders, including many of the major brands in the world.

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The initiative is being led by WFA's Global Media Board, which is made up of 16 of the biggest advertisers in the world, including P&G, Unilever, Volkswagen, Adidas, Nestle and others.

It comes after local industry body the Association of New Zealand Advertisers (Anza) made a call for global advertisers to show solidarity, placing pressure on social media companies to address the issues with the platform.

This is the first time that the WFA - or Anza for the matter - have called on advertisers to flex their muscle for a cause of this nature.

Anza chief executive Lindsay Mouat stressed the importance of advertisers taking action.

"This is not an issue of brand safety," he said.

"This is a moral question to hold social media platforms to account in the same way we do for traditional media."

In its call for action, Anza called on global advertisers to take one of three steps:

1. Consider suspending advertising on Facebook until its live streaming functionality is either taken down or sufficient controls are put in place.

2. Put this topic on the agenda at an executive level within your organisation, and petition
Facebook for change.

3. As agency and client communities in your own countries, work together and with your own industry associations and government regulators to apply pressure to bring about change.

A number of major brands in New Zealand have suspended advertising on social media, while the major telcos have also written an open letter to social media providers calling for action.

At this stage, it is still unclear whether global brands will be pulling their ads from social media channels.

While companies are free to decide their own approaches, a written statement from the WFA reminds advertisers that they are the funders of social media companies and urges them to put pressure on platforms to do more to prevent their services from being "hijacked by those with malicious intent".

The move comes after a range of recent controversies involving the major social media companies.

Three specific incidents are mentioned in the letter. These include paedophile comments being left in the comments section on YouTube, the glorification of self-harm on Instagram and the live-streaming of the terrorist attack in Christchurch.

The WFA said this call for action is necessary because these issues cannot be addressed by one country alone.

WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke urged marketers to work with platform providers to address the concerns.

"Brands and platforms must assume a higher level of responsibility to ensure these online environments are forces for good, not conflict or violence," Loerke said.

"That begins with acknowledging flaws and quickly investing in lasting solutions. To drive change we need less debate and more action."