Facebook removes ads from controversial pages after M&S and Sky boycott

01/07/2013

Facebook has removed display ads from pages showing adult content after two major UK advertisers suspended their ads on the social network.

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Marks & Spencer and Sky owner BSkyB informed Facebook that they had serious concerns about their names appearing next to ‘inappropriate content’, and last week suspended the majority of their adverts.

The news follows a previous compliant in May from both Nissan and Nationwide concerning placement of their ads on pages that contained ‘misogynistic content’.

In response, Facebook has revamped its advertising operations from today.

One of the most prominent changes the social network is making is no longer displaying right-hand-side ads on pages that sell adult products.

A company statement said:

‘Beginning on Monday, we will implement a new review process for determining which pages and groups should feature adverts alongside their content. We will now seek to restrict ads from appearing next to pages and groups that contain any violent, graphic or sexual content.’

The social network added that any page selling ‘adult content’ would also not feature advertising.

The move means that some 10,000 pages will be marked as ‘safe’ and will be able to feature any adverts, according to sources.

But all other pages will be assessed to ensure no images or words are offensive.

'Keen to use Facebook again'

The issue was highlighted after a member of the public contacted the companies to tell them that a Sky advert promoting a M&S voucher was placed on a page called ‘cute and gay boys’, which featured photographs of teenage boys.

M&S asked pay-TV group BSkyB to remove the advert and in response, the store suspended some of its advertising, whereas BSkyB suspended all of its advertising on the site.

However, both companies said they were keen to use Facebook again, but needed to make sure their advertising would not appear next to offensive content, or material that might reflect poorly on their brands.

A Marks & Spencer spokesman on Friday confirmed they had temporarily suspended advertising whilst they reviewed the situation, adding: “Marks & Spencer does not tolerate any inappropriate use or positioning of its brand and has very clear policies that govern where and how our brand is used.

“We take any suggestion that these policies are not being adhered to very seriously and always investigate them thoroughly. Our investigation has established that this issue very specifically relates to a form of marketing called retargeting which is based on the internet usage of the person viewing the pages. We are now working very closely with Facebook to understand the measures that they are taking to try and prevent this from happening again."

Meanwhile, BskyB said it had asked Facebook to devise safeguards to ensure their content does not appear alongside inappropriate material in the future, saying they would review the situation in due course.

Last month, Nissan and Nationwide halted axed their adverts following concerns about misogynistic content, including images of abused women.

Nearly 100 women’s groups wrote an open letter to the social network in May demanding better policing of content that ‘trivialises or glorifies violence against women and girls’.

Read the official Facebook statement here

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