In its first big move to implement the stricter ad guidelines it introduced this summer, Facebook recently suspended applications that served advertisements with deceptive content within them. The apps were suspended without warning, leaving developers confused as to why Facebook took this action and didn’t give them a chance to handle the offending ads first, according to Nick O’Neill over at AllFacebook, who first reported the story over the weekend. This confusion is likely a result of a problem we discussed earlier: Facebook’s vagueness about how its ad approval process actually works.
When Facebook announced it would update its ad guidelines in July, we wondered what kind of an effect this would have on the ad network ecosystem. Though the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company warned developers that they would be held accountable for any ads featured within their apps, it seemed the ad networks would be affected the most. At that point, Facebook had already banned two ad networks, SocialReach and SocialHour, for its spammy ads. Yet Facebook’s suspension of certain apps have made it clear that even developers will face swift punishment if they violate the social network’s new ad policies. So far, Familybuilder’s Family Tree app and Family Link’s We’re Related app were suspended on Friday night for having “misleading” ads within them, Inside Facebook reports.
Yesterday, Paul Jeffries from Facebook’s Platform Policy team posted the following on the company’s Developer Forum:
In addition to prior enforcements, recently some applications were temporarily suspended for running a high percentage of violating ads. These poor ads — even from a small number of applications — can diminish user confidence in all advertising, adversely impacting the entire Platform ecosystem. However, these apps were not permanently disabled, and assuming there are no other policy violations, will be restored in several days at the end of the scheduled suspensions. We do want to note that in some cases apps may be permanently disabled for ad violations.
Additionally, Facebook told us today that apps “have been suspended or warned weekly” since its announcement in July, and there “was enforcement taken last Monday and Tuesday” before it suspended other apps on Friday. The social network said some of the affected apps would be back up and running on the platform today. When asked to elaborate on its ad approval process, Facebook told us in an email that:
Bad ads come to our attention through routine regular monitoring of applications, and reports from users, developers, and ad networks. We regularly talk with the major ad networks about our expectations, providing guidance on particular policies and feedback about bad ads we’re seeing. We also talk with developers about violations and how we can better assist their monitoring efforts. When we see policy violating ads within an application we will warn, temporarily suspend the application, or permanently disable it, depending on the nature and pervasiveness of the violations and the developer’s history.
Facebook found that two advertisements from RockYou, one of the major ad networks on the social network, violated its ad policy. While Jeffries’ statement yesterday yielded some angry comments from app developers, RockYou Chief Revenue Officer Roi Choi Ro Choy said Facebook was right to take this action. “Were we surprised? Yes, this happened without prior notice to us. But in order for this policy environment to work, they have to do that. Facebook is just enforcing their own policy.”
Indeed, Facebook has made it clear that it means business when it comes to cracking down on spam-like or misleading ads. But what’s left to be seen is what miffed developers will do as as result of the company’s actions.