With Big App Suspensions, Facebook Shifts Ad Policing Burden to Developers (Updated)

facebook platform developersLast week, Facebook confirmed to us that they weren’t planning on revisiting the new Platform ad network policies related to user data any time soon. And based on multiple suspensions of large apps this weekend, Facebook showed that it’s not hesitating to enforce these policies either.

On Friday night, Facebook suspended a number of applications – including Familybuilder’s Family Tree (with 5.3 million monthly active users) and FamilyLink’s We’re Related (20.4 million monthly active users) – citing the following reason in the policy action email:

“Your application contains ads that link to landing pages completely unrelated to the content in the ad and thus are misleading.”

Following the suspension, Familybuilder CEO Ilya Nikolayev reached out to us to express his concern that the company was given no warning before its app was suspended. Nikolayev says the offending ad was eventually traced to one ad being shown by one ad network to users in one country (Canada), and that they would gladly have turned all ads off in order to identify the offending ad had Familybuilder been given the chance.

Platform ad networks have subsequently taken further action to shut down any ads that they fear may be subject to any issues. As it is, however, Facebook appears to be wanting to make it clear that developers partnering with ad networks that violate its policies will be suspended – even if the ad networks are only serving a very small percentage of offending ads.

As Paul Jeffries, head of Facebook’s Platform Policy team, wrote in the Developer Forums (emphasis added):

On July 28th we announced new advertising policies and said “[w]e’d like to remind you that you are responsible for all content within your application, and will be held accountable for any policy violations in ads appearing in your application, regardless of whether you have served them or they come from a third-party ad network.  Facebook will enforce against developers and applications that include policy-violating ads — such as by imposing a temporary restriction on functionality or permanently disabling the application — as we do for other instances of policy violation.”

Since then we have been taking action when necessary.  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.

As we’ve mentioned, if you run ads from third-party networks, we encourage you to monitor those ads, and work with your providers to ensure compliance and high quality.  Don’t run ads from networks you don’t trust or you catch violating the guidelines.  You may wish to ask your network to explain how they protect you and users, whether they have a process for receiving ad complaints, whether they offer you transparency into the variety of ads they run in different locations, and whatever other assurances you as a publisher would like to demand in exchange for allowing access to space you are accountable for.

We’re excited about all the value you create for users and your dedication to building on Platform, and want to encourage monetization and your success.  We’ll keep looking for ways to help.  But remember that you are clients of the ad networks;  they should be serving your needs.  For the percentage of developers that are outsourcing your monetization and user experience to them, are they doing what you require for them to earn your trust and access to your users?

Paul C. Jeffries
Platform Policy Team

While Facebook has previously suspended ad networks for ads that violate Platform policies, it’s clear that Facebook is now shifting the burden to developers themselves to ensure that their ad network partners are within the bounds of Platform policy. This means that the ad networks will need to do a lot of work to convince developers that they’re monitoring their ads closely – many small developers simply don’t have the resources to monitor ad inventory from all their ad network partners around the world 24/7.

We’ll let you know as Facebook says more on these suspensions.

Update: A Facebook spokesperson issued the following comments on this weekend’s suspensions:

Since introducing updated policies for third-party ads on Facebook Platform in July, we’ve consistently taken necessary steps to ensure user trust is maintained with applications. As part of this effort, applications serving third-party ads that are not appropriate or put users at risk have been warned, temporarily suspended, and in rare cases disabled.

As part of an open platform with almost unlimited options for monetization, we believe it is the responsibility of both developers and ad networks to make sure the content running in applications is appropriate. We’re confident that the collective efforts to review third-party ad content will provide the expanded monetization and growth opportunities that come with a thriving platform ecosystem that users are excited to participate in.

We will continue to look for ways to provide best practices to developers and are interested in any feedback from the community on areas where we can help.

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Leave a Reply

17 Responses to “With Big App Suspensions, Facebook Shifts Ad Policing Burden to Developers (Updated)”

  1. FB developer says:

    The problem for developers is that monitoring ads is near impossible. We don’t have time to pay attention to what’s running on every network we test out and if the rule is that one violation = app shut down then there is no point to build apps on Facebook anymore that don’t monetize with Virtual Currency.

    Additionally, it can’t be easy for ad networks to create compliant ads when FB has double standards on what compliant means! Want proof? Look at what Social Media posted on a quick browse of Facebook’s own ad network: http://apps.facebook.com/appsaholic/

    Dear Paul Jefferies, if Facebook launches an ad network of their own how can we trust it given that another division in Facebook has made it clear they’ll shut us off for ads they run themsleves! Good work Facebook – you’ve ruined the platform.

  2. Sarabjit Singh says:

    I don’t understand, how does a developer monitor his or her ads all the time?? Especially when they’re using ad agency that are approved by facebook themselves! Heck I seen nasty ads get through their own ad system so they should know better. Unless, of course, they have an another reason ….

  3. Mayara says:

    That’s absurd – everyone knows people should be given at least one warning first…
    I’m annoyed – egg breaker is off for like 3 days so far and no idea when they’ll come back -.-

  4. Michael says:

    Dear Facebook Spokesperson,

    If you would be so kind as to elaborate on the “unlimited options to monetize”, readers might actually start trusting what you are saying.

    Since its your job to say things, I recommend you communicate very carefully. If an app cannot accept credit cards through an iframe via an app on the Platform, you shouldn’t be using the term “unlimited”, at anytime whatsoever when you are speaking on monetary topics.

    Furthermore, how can an ad be misleading? That’s why its called advertising.

    If a user is misled to a page after clicking on an ad, then the user should have the aptitude to decide on their own whether to continue further, or not.

    Is this negative experience this user has, affecting facebook at all? No. It affects the users outlook on the APP. Not facebook.

    The regular users dont know about “platform” and “policies” – so what Facebook did to these apps by shutting them down, was ill-advised, and an extremely poor way to execute a problem that will be around forever, cause it already has been around forever since advertising has existed, on and offline.

    Facebook should be held accountable for what they did. Who’s able to execute THOSE actions of accountability? No one.


  5. Facebook Cracks Down on Devs, Suspends Apps Over Bad Ads says:

    [...] Related app were suspended on Friday night for having “misleading” ads within them, Inside Facebook [...]

  6. Another FB Developer says:

    Nice link “FB Developer”.

    This is a marginal situation that should not have warranted such swift and heavy handed action by Facebook. If Facebook wanted to improve the quality of adverts, all they had to do was send a message to developers saying that ads they have been displaying through are breaking Facebook policies and if they don’t stop using the network then their application will be disabled. No one would use ever again.

  7. Andrew Turvey says:

    Just logged in – FarmVille and SocialMe apps both seem to be not working – have they been suspended too?

  8. Andrew Turvey says:

    Oh yeah and Geni

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  13. Frank Smith says:

    I’m a new user of Familybuilder’s Family Tree and FamilyLink’s We’re Related, and EVERY time I used the links for these apps on Facebook when I would click on a link to add family members or see possible family members, an advertisement would completely take over my computer and tell me I had a virus, with a graphic depiction of my hard disks and say that I needed to download software immediately to protect my computer. I would have to ctrl/alt/del to shut down my browser, this was the only way I could close it! So, I applaud Facebook for being firm with app developers!

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    [...] recently made changes in the rules around the types of creatives that platform ad networks are allowed to show. How do you view the role of platform ad networks going [...]

  17. App Developers Repeat After Me: The Platform is Not Your Friend « @ the intersection says:

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