Update: Facebook Restricts Ads on Controversial Pages

Facebook vowed to crack down on offensive content on its site back in May after multiple advertisers — including auto giant Nissan — pulled their ads from the social networking site. At the time, Facebook was facing protests from social activist groups — especially those associated with gender equality — due to the company’s failure to remove pages dedicated to gender-based hate speech and misogynistic content.

In May, Facebook said of the issue,”…it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.  In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria.”

The company promised that it would take steps to improve, like reviewing and updating guidelines, updating training for its review teams, increasing accountability for creators of harmful content, and establishing more formal and direct lines of communication between itself and rights groups.

Now, Facebook is taking it a step further; the company has declared that, beginning this week, it will remove ads on pages that contain “any violent, graphic or sexual content.” In other words, even though certain pages may not technically violate Facebook’s community standards policies — and therefore cannot be forcibly taken down — the social network will remove advertising from pages that it deems offensive or controversial.

“While we already have rigorous review and removal policies for content against our terms, we recognize we need to do more to prevent situations where ads are displayed alongside controversial Pages and Groups,” the company said. Facebook is currently reviewing sites by hand, but plans to create a “more scalable, automated way to prevent and/or remove ads appearing next to controversial content.”

As we said back in May, we see this as a strong reminder of the power of advertisers, which actually demonstrates the power of consumers; brands don’t want to be associated with something their customers find offensive or socially irresponsible, and when protests and petitions translate into pulled ad dollars, the combination has the power to affect real change.