FB bars ads from objectionable videos
FACEBOOK’S huge audience has long been catnip to advertisers. But the company’s vast ecosystem has come under scrutiny this year from major brands, which are increasingly sensitive to the possibility of inadvertently showing up next to objectionable content.
In response to those concerns, Facebook released a new set of rules on Wednesday outlining the types of videos and articles it will bar from running ads. It also said it would begin disclosing new information to advertisers about where their messages appear on the platform and on external apps and sites it is partners with.
The rules, which will be enforced by a mix of automation and human review, restrict ads from content that depicts, among other topics, real-world tragedies, “debatable social issues”, misappropriation of children’s show characters, violence, nudity, gore, drug use and derogatory language. Facebook is extending the guidelines immediately to videos – which the company hopes will become a lucrative part of its business – and, in the coming months, to articles.
Facebook said users who repeatedly violate its content guidelines, share sensational clickbait or post fake news may lose the ability to run ads.
“There have been concerns that marketers have had that are wide-ranging around digital, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that we are providing the safest environment for publishers, advertisers and for people that utilise the platform,” said Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions.
The new policies, which mimic guidelines established by Google’s YouTube, come as advertisers demand accountability from the internet giants related to where and how their messages are delivered.
Facebook and Google were criticised during and after the presidential election for allowing misinformation to spread on their platforms. This year, YouTube had to address advertisers’ concerns after messages from major brands were discovered on videos that promoted terrorism and hate speech. The Wall Street Journal found at least 50 acts of violence on Facebook Live broadcasts.
The companies are moving quickly to address such issues, particularly as they seek to at- tract a greater portion of the money earmarked for television advertising to the video content on their sites.
Facebook has enabled hundreds of publishers and individuals to run ads during live video broadcasts in the past year, and the company recently introduced a slate of new shows on a part of its site called “Watch”.
If the new guidelines encourage people to post more G-rated video content, they are likely to bolster Facebook’s pitch to advertisers.
“Facebook is this huge, huge, huge platform, and they haven’t really been monetising original content in the same way as YouTube has,” said John Montgomery, executive vice president for brand safety at GroupM, a media investment group.
“What I think is different for Facebook is that this is a much earlier stage for them that they’re going into this, and the scale is different in that there will be much, much less content uploaded than those stupefying numbers you hear about on YouTube.”
That should be an advantage in policing content, Montgomery said, especially with the limits that Facebook is placing on who can make money from certain features. For example, the company required pages and profiles that wanted to run ads on live videos this year to have more than 2,000 followers. They could only show ads if they had at least 300 concurrent viewers after four minutes.
Facebook also said it would begin showing advertisers a preview of where their messages may appear before campaigns start, giving advertisers a chance to block undesirable destinations.
When brands use Facebook to target specific people with ads, they are able to select from a cornucopia of traits, including age, gender and how many lines of credit a person has. Many ads then show up in the main Facebook and Instagram feeds that people flick through, but they can also appear in articles and videos within Facebook and on outside apps and mobile websites that are part of Facebook’s “audience network”.
Brands have not been able to see beforehand what kind of content that might include, and some have had to contend with objections from consumers after being placed on sites like Breitbart News. Facebook said there were tens of thousands of apps and sites in its audience network and that more than 10,000 publishers displayed articles within its platform through a tool called Instant Articles.
As YouTube has moved to limit ads from running alongside unsavoury content, many creators on the platform have complained that their videos have been unfairly penalised by automated systems. Facebook will probably have to grapple with similar complaints as it expands the number of people who can make money from video ads on the site.
“We are not censoring their content; as long as it abides by our community standards, the content can run on the platform,” Everson said. “If a publisher wants to monetise that content, they have to adhere to the monetisation eligibility standards.”
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, during a town hall meeting with software developers and entrepreneurs in Lagos, Nigeria, on August 31, 2016.