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?