Facebook forced to change advertising system in the face of advertising boycott

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Facebook have launched a major restructuring of their advertising system after a number of advertisers threatened a boycott of the social media site. Several companies suspended their advertising buys after they found their ads being placed next to content they were less than happy to be associated with.

The rapid move comes after a Sky advert promoting an M&S voucher turned up on a Facebook page called "Cute and gay boys” that featured photos of scantily clad teenage boys.

Facebook said: "We recognize we need to do more to prevent situations where ads are displayed alongside controversial Pages and Groups. So we are taking action."

No matter how much pressure Facebook is coming under from investors dismayed at the share price plummet since their flotation, freedom of speech remains paramount to the site’s credibility. Therefore, while the content, however unpalatable to some, must remain, an overhaul of their automated approach to advertising has become a matter of urgency.

It seems that Facebook are planning to create a ‘gold standard’ of pages whose content is solidly uncontroversial and then slowly inspect more pages in order to add to the safe list. A starting number of 10,000 safe pages has been mooted. Once this initial list of pages has been created, advertising will be removed from all other pages pending individual review.

One thing to make clear is that this change only relates to ‘pages’ and not to individual profiles which will still contain targeted advertising aimed at the user.

"We will now seek to restrict ads from appearing next to pages and groups that contain any violent, graphic or sexual content (content that does not violate our community standards)," the company said. "Prior to this change, a page selling adult products was eligible to have ads appear on its right-hand side; now there will not be ads displayed next to this type of content."

"We know that marketers work hard to promote their brands, and we take their objectives seriously. While we already have rigorous review and removal policies for content against our terms, we recognise we need to do more to prevent situations where ads are displayed alongside controversial Pages and Groups."

"All of this will improve detection of what qualifies as questionable content, which means we'll do a better job making sure advertising messages appear next to brand-appropriate Pages and Groups," the company said. "While these changes won't have a meaningful impact on Facebook's business, they will result in benefits to people and marketers".

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