Facebook to block ads from violent/offensive pages

FB promises to block ads from offensive pages after BSkyB and Marks and Spencer pull ads

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
June 28, 2013
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Ask and you shall receive. The world asked Facebook to stop turning a blind eye to content promoting violence against women while simultaneously censoring mastectomy and breastfeeding pictures, and Facebook replied with an authoritative: “mmmmaybe.” But then a bunch of brands are like, “Hey, we don’t want our ads appearing next to hate speech, Facebook! Step to it!” And Facebook is all, “Yes, sir! Right away, sir!”

Sort of.

One month after Facebook came under fire for refusing to remove content promoting violence against women and subsequently promised to update its user guidelines, the company announced Friday that it will take steps to ensure that a brand’s ad will not be displayed on any ad featuring offensive content.

“Beginning on Monday, we will implement a new review process for determining which Pages and Groups should feature ads alongside their content. This process will expand the scope of Pages and Groups that should be ad-restricted. By the end of the week, we will remove ads from all Pages and Groups that fall into this new, more expansive restricted list,” the company said in a statement Friday.

For example, ads will now be restricted from pages and groups that contain violent, graphic, or sexual content, even if it doesn’t violate Facebook’s community standards. So, as FB pointed out, while a page selling adult products was once eligible to have ads appear on the right-hand side, now it won’t.

The move comes just hours after a BBC report revealed that Marks and Spencer and BSkyB planned to temporarily pull advertising from Facebook after their ads appeared on a page called “Cute, Gay Boys,” which featured pictures of teenage boys.

M&S and BSkyB are the newest additions to a chorus of brands that called on Facebook last month to change its guidelines to start addressing content celebrating and encouraging violence against women. Last month, 15 companies, including Nissan and Nationwide, temporarily pulled their ad dollars from the social network when advocacy groups like Women Action and the Media and Everyday Sexism Project pointed out that those brands’ ads were appearing next to particularly vile images of women with black eyes and bruised faces, women being beaten or pushed down the stairs, unconscious women, and so on.

And users say they’ve reported even worse content, including videos of actual sexual assaults, that Facebook refused to remove.

Many such images had been reported to Facebook previously as being in violation of section 3, point 7 of its terms of service: “You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” But in many instances, Facebook refused to remove such content, insisting that one meme of a duct-taped woman with the text “don’t wrap it and tap it, tape her and rape her” was not in violation of its community standards. Neither was an image of a woman lying at the bottom of some stairs with the text “next time don’t get pregnant.”

A number of blogs and news organizations reported on Facebook’s bizarre stance on such images when it was simultaneously removing images of mastectomy patients and breastfeeding mothers.

It wasn’t until brands began pulling their ad dollars (following boycotts from their own customers) that Facebook finally promised to review its community standards and update training for the teams that review and evaluate reports of hate speech and harmful content.

Facebook could not be reached for comment, so no word on how that’s coming along. 


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