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Facebook developing new ‘topic exclusion’ tool that can keep ads away from political News Feed posts

Facebook is developing a new tool that will keep ads away from sensitive posts in your News Feed.

The social media platform is testing ‘topic exclusion’ controls that allow advertisers to keep marketing from politics, crime, controversial social issues and other designated topics.

It’s already started using the controls with a limited number of advertisers.

At the same time, advertisers are pressuring Facebook to examine the tone and impact of posts even when they’re not near ads.

In summer 2020, companies like Coca-Cola and CVS paused marketing on the site in reaction to hate speech and election misinformation proliferating on Facebook.

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 Facebook is testing out ‘topic exclusion’ controls that will let advertisers block their marketing from appearing near certain topics. A limited number of companies are using the tools but Facebook says development and testing will take much of the year

The topic exclusion tools will allow a toy company to block its advertising from popping up near content related to ‘crime and tragedy,’ Facebook explained in a blog post Friday.

‘These controls will help to address concerns advertisers have of their ads appearing in News Feed next to certain topics based on their brand suitability preferences.’ 

Other topics will include ‘news and politics’ and ‘social issues.’

Facebook says product development and testing of the topic exclusion controls will take ‘much of the year.’

Topic exclusion controls can currently keep ads away from posts labeled 'politics and news,' 'crime and tragedy' and 'social issues.' Pictured: A crime storyposted on Facebook

The tool comes after a contentious campaign season that saw a rise in hate speech, conspiracy theories and election misinformation. Pictured: an op-ed posted on Facebook

Topic exclusion controls can currently keep ads away from posts labeled ‘politics and news,’ ‘crime and tragedy’ and ‘social issues.’ The tool comes after a contentious campaign season that saw a rise in hate speech, conspiracy theories and election misinformation

‘These are new controls, and it’s important we build them with safeguards to protect people’s privacy as we continue to move forward.’

The new tool already exists on other parts of Facebook, including in-stream video and in-app ads on its Audience Network, CNBC reported.

Facebook and other social media companies have been working to develop brand safety tools with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), a powerful consortium of top advertisers, agencies, media companies and industry groups founded in 2019.

Its members include Adidas, BP, Diageo, General Mills, Mars Inc., Mastercard, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Vodafone.

The new topic exclusion controls are at outgrowth of Facebook’s efforts to respond to GARM’s recommendations. 

Facebook's new ad filter comes after Facebook's discussions with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), a powerful consortium of top advertisers, media companies and industry groups that includes Diageo, General Mills and Unilever

Facebook’s new ad filter comes after Facebook’s discussions with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), a powerful consortium of top advertisers, media companies and industry groups that includes Diageo, General Mills and Unilever

‘Providing advertisers topic exclusion tools to control the content their ads appear next to is incredibly important work for us, and to our commitment to the industry via GARM,’ said Carolyn Everson, Facebook VP for global business.  

As misinformation, conspiracy theories and hate speech have proliferated online via groups like QAnon, GARM has also pushed platforms to consider how such content affects society, regardless of whether its ad-supporter.

Last year, at the height of the US presidential campaign season, top advertisers including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Honda and Microsoft paused social media advertising after complaints Facebook wasn’t doing enough to police misinformation and content that incited violence and hate.

After the attack on the Capitol building in Washington, DC, earlier this month, Facebook banned advertisements for weapon accessories and protective equipment until at least two days after President Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

The ban came after Facebook drew criticism for allowing posts that promoted and organized the January 6 attack by supporters of President Donald Trump.

The prohibition added gun safes, vests and gun holsters to the list of banned items that included weapons, ammunition and weapon enhancements like silencers.

Facebook has also blocked the creation of any new events on its platform in close proximity to places such as the White House and U.S. Capitol in Washington, as well as state capitol buildings.

Facebook, which has more than 3 billion users worldwide, has been investing in other tools to foster legitimate news sources: The company is developing newsletter tools for independent reporters as part of the Facebook Journalism Project, according to The New York Times.

Though details are sparse, the program could allow writers to build a network of Facebook followers and develop paid subscriptions.

The project could launch as early as this summer, the Times reported.


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