Ad Networks On Edge As Facebook Shuts Down Developers

A number of the large ad networks have been reaching out to developers to let them know that they essentially have no idea what’s going on. Facebook has taken the latest actions without giving developers any form of early notification and many ad networks feel left in the dark. Those developers that have ad supported business models (the majority of Facebook developers) feel as though their businesses are in jeopardy. The rationale is that if they can’t trust what were previously reliable ad networks, who can they trust?

The developers all share a legitimate concern. One developer I spoke with postulated that if you can’t rely on the ad networks, is Facebook a good platform for running a business? I suggest that there are plenty of models available, however getting millions of users and throwing up display ads was never a legitimate long-term business model. One clear issue that remains is whether display ad networks on Facebook will continue to exist. Their livelihood is currently threatened which is clearly articulated through an email sent yesterday by Aaron Choi, manager of the publisher network at RockYou:

As you know, Facebook has gone through another round of aggressive compliance checks, and have flagged a number of ads that they deem offending. We’ve included some ads that Facebook is flagging as part of this email – most of which RY does not serve but are served by other networks.

We are as surprised as you about this latest round from Facebook, and have been consistently sending creative to them in an effort to get much clearer guidance. Much of the time, we don’t hear anything back or we get vague answers. In some cases, we have had ad creative flagged through our network when very similar creative is running on Facebook itself, served through Facebook’s ad system.

Regardless, we have (once again) done a full sweep of our ads and it looks good as of now. We have informed third party ad networks that serve through us about Facebook’s compliance guidelines. We will continue to be vigilant.

We encourage you to use our Ad reporting system. This allows you to inform us of ads you think may be inappropriate per Facebook guidelines. Will also allow you to see what ads we’re serving versus other ad networks you may be using. This is the only system of it’s kind, as far as we know, and you should be using it. A screenshot of the ad reporting feature is attached.

Any additional feedback or suggestions you have are appreciated. We look forward to managing through this with you.

There is hundreds of millions of dollars currently at stake and Facebook is the one pulling the strings. We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and while they’ve acknowledged the situation, we’ve yet to receive any official statement from the company. Any entire developer ecosystem is currently threatened, given that Facebook has begun swiftly shutting down any application in violation without warning. One has to wonder what Facebook’s goal is behind these actions. Since the original applications were shut down, Facebook made the following post to the forums:


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

Many developers are still left frustrated since the update though. While Facebook has had enough of the IQ Quiz ads, there are few alternatives for developers. Both sides have legitimate positions, however Facebook is clearly in control here and whether or not you believe in the “get millions of users and post display ads” business model, that’s what the majority of developers are doing. The issue is far from resolved. For now the debate will rage on between Facebook and developers until a clear line is drawn by the company.

The largest developers have been calling for clearly defined terms to avoid any ambiguity. Right now, developers think Facebook has crossed a line, and there’s no going back. While I may not believe in some of the business models behind these companies, the large ad networks are really all that many of these developers had to generate revenue. We’ll have to wait and see how this situation evolves over the next 48 hours.