Facebook circumvents ad-blockers to fight loss of income

Facebook is changing the way it displays advertising, including circumventing ad-blocking software installed by users.

In a blog post, Facebook's Andrew Bosworth said the social media giant would "begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad-blocking software".

Ad-blockers, which have been available on desktop computers for more than a decade, are web browser plugins or smartphone apps that prevent ads from appearing on websites including Facebook.

Their popularity has increased since Apple made it possible for iPhone and iPad users to block ads on the 2015 (iOS 9) version of its mobile operating system, technology commentator Ben Grubb said.

"What this has meant for news publishers and social media sites, the ads, which are used to fund their service, are no longer appearing … starving them of funds," Mr Grubb told ABC NewsRadio.

"They are having to invent ways of trying to allow those ads to still exist."

Facebook has traditionally placed ads in a column on the right side of the page, but over the past year has also been placing ads in the main news feed in the centre of the page, mixed with regular content.

"That's still not enough," Mr Grubb said.

"That's what the changes they've announced this week are about. Putting the types of ads you see in the hands of users, so you can pick the ads that you like, but at the same time trying to circumvent the restrictions that ad-blockers pose."

Facebook's Mr Bosworth said the company had been "making ad preferences easier to use, so you can stop seeing certain types of ads".

"These improvements are designed to give people even more control over how their data informs the ads they see," he said.

While criticising "bad ads" that "obscure the content we're trying to read, ads that slow down load times or ads that try to sell us things we have no interest in buying", Facebook defends their user preferences as a better option than ad-blockers.

"When they're relevant and well-made, ads can be useful, helping us find new products and services and introducing us to new experiences," Mr Bosworth said.

Circumventing ad-blockers 'not choice', ad-blockers say

Not everyone agrees — Adblock Plus, which Mr Grubb lists as one of the most popular options, published a blog post describing the changes as "Facebook just got all anti-user".

"Facebook apparently agrees that users have a good reason for using ad-blocking software … but yet those users shouldn't be given the power to decide what they want to block themselves?" Ben Williams from Adblock Plus wrote.

"In any case, it's hard to imagine Facebook or the brands that are being advertised on its site getting any sort of value for their ad dollar here: publishers (like Facebook) alienate their audience and advertisers (the brands) allow their cherished brand name to be shoved down people's throats. Yikes."

However, ad-blockers including Adblock Plus have been criticised for taking money from advertisers to 'whitelist' ads, allowing them to be shown to users.

"They are actually deciding, these ad-blocking companies, which ads are good and which are bad, and then letting some of them go through to the keeper. And that's how they fund their services," Mr Grubb said.

"Which I think is a bit, I don't know, questionable, you could say. There is a bit of a conflict of interest for an ad-blocker to start letting some ads through."

Facebook describe this as "a practice that is at best confusing to people".

"Rather than paying ad-blocking companies to unblock the ads we show — as some of these companies have invited us to do in the past — we're putting control in people's hands," Mr Bosworth said.

Mr Williams said in a response to a comment on the Adblock Plus blog post that the "Acceptable Ads initiative" could be disabled by users.

He also said that Facebook's decision to circumvent a user's decision to use an ad-blocker was "not choice" and that he was expecting "a speedy workaround" when Facebook implemented these changes.

Source: ABC News

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