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Facebook Tracker: Advertising Crackdown

In this week’s Facebook tracker, the social media giant amps up community vibes with its new standalone group video chat Bonfire app, while also cracking down on ads that target haters or run beside objectionable content. Facebook Messenger growth remains strong but is slowing, and there’s a new way to get rid of that friend or page’s endless annoying posts without severing the connection.

Haters Gonna Pay, Pay, Pay — But Not If They Never See The Ads

A small percentage of Facebook users populate their education or employment fields with offensive responses, including anti-Semitic and other racist self-identifiers. Until now, advertisers were able to use those identifiers to reach that block of users, small as it may have been.

In response, Facebook has removed the capability for advertisers to target groups based on self-reported information. It was previously an automatic function of its algorithm to transform those self-reported interests and identifiers into advertising categories. The anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and pro-KKK advertising categories have been eliminated since they were brought to Facebook’s attention. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is committed to keeping a closer eye on hateful posts.

“It’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong,” Zuckerberg wrote after the discovery this week.

Gather Round The Bonfire

Facebook recently rolled out Bonfire, a standalone group video chat app, to its Danish users. The app allows users to hold video chats with up to six members and doodle or apply Snapchat-like effects to the live video. So, basically, it’s Houseparty or a chat-based Zapstream with a social media megalith behind it.

With Houseparty drumming up 20 million users in the year since its launch, Facebook has definitely taken notice. As such, it has initiated another round of its favorite pastime: beating smaller competitors at their own games. It is unclear, however, whether Bonfire will be the avenue by which Facebook achieves that win against Houseparty or Zapstream. This summer, Facebook was reportedly weighing its options in terms of standalone video apps.

Slow Your Roll

Facebook Messenger hit 1.3 billion monthly users this week, making it the number one cross-OS messaging app in the west. Its growth seems to be slowing down, though, suggesting possible saturation in certain core markets.

The numbers: The Facebook Messenger user count climbed from 800 million to one billion in a matter of six months. The next 200 million rolled in more slowly over approximately nine months. The final 100 million were collected over a span of five months.

Messenger finally achieved monetization in July via sponsored messages and display ads, just in time for new usership to slow down. Still, those 1.3 billion users probably aren’t going anywhere for a while.

Ad Subtraction

It’s bad messaging when a company’s ad appears on or beside objectionable content. There are groups, issues and products that companies don’t want consumers to associate with their goods or services, and companies have been pushing back against Facebook to do something about it. Even advertisers who have not encountered the issue firsthand are pulling back due to concerns that appearing next to objectionable content may be inevitable.

In response, Facebook is barring certain types of videos and articles from running ads. These include content depicting real-world tragedies, debatable social issues, misappropriation of children’s show characters, violence, nudity, gore, drug use and derogatory language.

A combination of AI and human intelligence will review and restrict ads from displaying these types of content — starting immediately with videos, which the company hopes will be its next big boon, and will also soon extend to articles. Repeat offenders may lose the ability to run ads at all.

You Snooze, You Win

Facebook is testing out a “Snooze” button that allows users to temporarily unfollow friends, pages or groups posting too much content, particularly about the same topic. Similar to Twitter’s “Mute” button, the “Snooze” button makes posts go away without actually severing ties.

Users are not unfriending or even permanently unfollowing their connections, but are waiting for them to settle down about the big event this weekend, that new album they have coming out or their latest political outrage. Connections can be “Snoozed” for a day, a week or a month at a time.

TechCrunch noted Snooze is an opportunity for Facebook to gather more information about what users want to see in their timelines, as well as what they don’t want to see, the same way it does with on clicks, likes, comments and shares. Therefore, it seems likely that Snoozing an account will signal the News Feed to show users less of that person, group or page’s content once the “timeout” is over.

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