Facebook moves to block ads on fake news, offensive videos

Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

San Francisco - Facebook is adding new standards that will keep advertising off fake news videos and objectionable content, moves that have become essential as the company starts to put ads inside videos and articles, instead of separately on the news feed.

Carolyn Everson, the company’s vice president of marketing solutions, said the moves are in reaction to advertiser fears about being paired with content that wouldn’t reflect well on their brands.

Facebook’s 5 million advertisers are increasingly sensitive to their product pitches showing up next to offensive content after a controversy at Google’s YouTube earlier this year. Facebook wants to avoid that so-called brand safety problem.

The moves, which will be enforced through a combination of human and automated review, address advertiser concerns about another Facebook problem, too: fake news and fictitious accounts. The company has been dealing with the spread of misinformation on its platform, reporting last week that fake accounts, likely linked to Russia, spent $100 000 in ads ahead of the US election.

Russia’s effort to influence US voters through Facebook and other social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and links between President Donald Trump’s associates and the country.

The new guidelines apply to publishers that want to run ads with their content and require an "authentic, established presence on Facebook,” proof that “they are who they represent themselves to be, and have had a profile or page on Facebook for at least one month,” the company said.

In order to put ad breaks in their videos, those publishers may need to have a follower base Facebook finds "sufficient,” and the company said that requirement could be applied to other ad features.

Publishers that “share clickbait or sensationalism, or post misinformation and false news may be ineligible or may lose their eligibility to monetise,” Facebook said.

Facebook already has rules for the content from media publishers on its site, which are much stricter than what’s allowed for the general community. For example, content can’t show too much drinking or drug use, excessively use derogatory language, show real-world tragedy or put children in compromising situations even for humourous effect. These will now apply to videos as well.

Everson and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg are pitching the new standards to advertisers at a conference this week in Germany. The company will be selling its newest ad opportunities on a new Facebook video section called Watch.

Facebook has paid and partnered with dozens of video series to start off the video push, but eventually wants the effort to be paid for entirely from advertising, for which it will share revenue with publishers. The company said it will eventually be able to give advertisers a list of what publishers’ content their ads appeared alongside.

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