Facebook is going to do something about those terrible ads on your website
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Facebook is going to do something about those terrible ads on your website


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Facebook is tweaking its algorithm again, and issuing a warning to “low-quality web page experiences” with terrible advertising: We’re coming for you. 

Facebook announced on Wednesday that the company will start using artificial intelligence to identify links to websites that have deceptive or malicious ads — and then show those posts to fewer users. 

Changes to Facebook’s News Feed have a major impact on the digital media industry due to the social network’s massive audience. Facebook has tweaked the algorithm plenty of times before to favor “high quality” content, but Wednesday’s announcement appears to be the first time Facebook has told publishers that its ads are also part of the equation. 

“Starting today, we’re rolling out an update so people see fewer posts and ads in News Feed that link to these low-quality web page experiences. Similar to the work we’re already doing to stop misinformation, this update will help to reduce the economic incentives of financially-motivated spammers,” Facebook explained in a blog post announcing the changes.

The ad-based changes are the most recent step in a series of efforts to change how information flows across Facebook. The company was on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism following the 2016 election for its role in allowing the spread of misinformation and propaganda.

Facebook compared Wednesday’s changes to other recent moves aimed at combating the “fake news” ecosystem.

In the blog post, Facebook laid out four particular issues that publishers should watch for:

  • How many ads are shown relative to content

  • Sexually suggestive or shocking content

  • Malicious or deceptive ads

  • Pop-up ads or interstitial ads

It’s that last one that could end up hurting the widest variety of publishers, as pop-ups and interstitials have become popular due to their high visibility to users. 

Other companies — such as dating apps, which already walk a fine line with Facebook’s policies — also stand to be hit by the changes. 

The use of artificial intelligence is of particular interest here, as Facebook has shied away from using human editors and curators, thought the company recently said it would hire 3,000 people to review Facebook Live streams.

“With this update, we reviewed hundreds of thousands of web pages linked to from Facebook to identify those that contain little substantive content and have a large number of disruptive, shocking, or malicious ads,” the blog post noted. 

“We then used artificial intelligence to understand whether new web pages shared on Facebook have similar characteristics,” the post continued. “So if we determine a post might link to these types of low-quality web pages, it may show up lower in people’s feeds and may not be eligible to be an ad. This way people can see fewer misleading posts, and more informative posts.”

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May 10, 2017
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