Facebook is promising to keep advertisers away from 'fiercely debated social issues'

  • Carolyn Everson Facebook 9175Michael Seto / Business InsiderFacebook sales chief Carolyn Everson

    Facebook is blocking certain types of content from making money from ads, such as fake news publishers.

  • The company wants to send a message to advertisers that it is taking “brand safety” seriously.
  • One area it plans to keep marketers away from is “fiercely debated social issues.”

Facebook is rolling out a slew of new policies and guidelines aimed at making advertisers more comfortable about where their ads will run and what kind of content they will be adjacent to.

The announcements are summed up in a new blog post by Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions titled “Providing More Clarity and Control for Advertisers.”

Specifically, Facebook has spelled out what kind of publishers are and aren’t allowed to make money from ads on the social networking platform. There are nine such content genres that are off limits.

Some are fairly straightforward: for example, you can’t make money from ads on Facebook if you steal other publishers content or logos. Facebook won’t run ads next to adult content, or content that promotes illegal activity or drug abuse, either.

But others are more subjective, like Facebook’s promise to help marketers avoid more sensitive topics. “Content flagged as misinformation and false news may be ineligible or may lose their eligibility to monetise,” reads Facebook’s new guidelines.

In other words, Facebook doesn’t want to fund fake news.

Other hot button content areas Facebook has decided to keep advertisers away from: any creators who appropriate children characters and has them doing adult things (violence, sex, drug use), along with articles on tragedies.

One prohibited area that may open up Facebook to scrutiny from free speech advocates: it will no longer run ads alongside content focused on “fiercely debated social issues.”

“Content that is incendiary, inflammatory, demeaning or disparages people, groups, or causes is not eligible for ads. Content that features or promotes issues attacks on people or groups is generally not eligible for ads, even if in the context of news or awareness purposes,” Facebook’s new policy said.

It’s interesting that Facebook is focusing so much on brand safety. It is a highly discussed issue in digital advertising at the moment, to be sure, but it is something that has hit YouTube along with the darker corners of the web more than Facebook.

Given the inherent complexity in digital advertising, where middleman ad tech companies often place ads automatically in milliseconds, many big advertisers like Procter & Gamble are worried that their ads will end up next to hate videos, or risque content, and are scrutinizing their digital media spend like never before.

Yet until recently, if marketers had a big gripe with Facebook, it was likely their string of very public measurement and analytics mistakes over the past year. Facebook has agreed to have some of its data measurement independently audited by the Media Rating Council, an industry watchdog group, in a process that is expected to take 18 months.

Facebook says it wants to address those concerns as well. As part of its new policies, advertisers will also get more control ahead of time when running campaigns on Facebook, including detailed reports on where their ads are scheduled to show up, the company said.

The new content eligibility rules come at an interesting time for Facebook, as the tech giant continues to take fire for its role in the spread of misinformation during the 2016 election, along with the revelation that Russian-led groups advertised on Facebook during that time.

“I think the way we’re looking at it is, all these issues can get very conflated,” Everson told Business Insider. “Marketers can paint a broad picture of digital media, that it’s all not safe, it’s not accountable. We couldn’t agree more that this industry need a healthy ecosystem. And brand safety is a component of that. We want our advertisers to feel safe. Whether or not we’ve gotten dinged or not is not the point. We want to get out in front of it.”

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