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Facebook's new crackdown: what's next?

Facebook's new crackdown: what's next?

Sveta Prus

We've gathered a list of the restrictions for advertising posts that have been introduced over the past three years. We have analyzed them and now put forward our predictions on the future face of Facebook ads.

2017. It is no longer possible to promote advertising posts uploaded through applications

On September 15, 2017, Facebook restricted advertising boosting for 17 types of posts. App postings went down along with polls, map check-ins, file download posts, etc.

Previously, Facebook allowed you to turn any post into an ad. After the changes, advertisers had to choose from several advertising formats for photo or video content, text messages, or combined options. For example slideshow ads, carousel or collections. In her message concerning the new features Facebook product manager Jyotika Prasad explained : the network wants businesses to utilize Facebook ad products that give them the best opportunity to achieve their business goals.

Some new restrictions, such as the ban on boosting a change of a profile picture were met with no complaints. Quite so, who would want to promote a new avatar? However, a ban on boosting the posts uploaded via a mobile application is a completely different story. 

This issue may not seem significant to those not related to SMM, therefore it should be clarified: SMM specialists use special applications for auto-posting, i.e. platforms enabling them to schedule the same post for publication in several social networks — or on several pages of the same network, for example, Facebook. 

So, by restricting the use of such platforms, Facebook forced SMM specialists to post manually — plan each post separately, switching between numerous communities. 

2018. Facebook bans all advertising for cryptocurrencies, binary options and ICO 

In January 2018, new Facebook bans came into force , they applied to:

  1. cryptocurrencies advertising,
  2. ICO advertising,
  3. binary options advertising.

Facebook management explained that the goal was to create a secure advertising space for users: so that they could get information about products and services without risking to fall victim to fraud or scam.

The reason for this ban arose from the exposure of fraudulent advertising campaigns for binary options, ICO and cryptocurrencies. They pursued only one goal: to collect money and disappear into thin air. 

Even with stringent measures, the problem did not end there, as the fraudsters managed to find a loophole. For example, instead of the capital letter "I" they used lower case letter "L" in the word BITCOIN. On the surface, the word seemed the same, and the network was deceived into accepting the false ad.

The story ended with the ban being lifted from cryptocurrency ads, but the restrictions on advertising of ICO and binary options remained.

2018. A new policy on advertising of medicinal substances

In May 2018, Facebook changed its advertising policy for medicinal products. The list of substances that were banned from promotion included anabolic steroids, chitosan, DHEA, ephedra, and human growth hormones. 

When it comes to advertising medical products on Facebook, many social issues come into view. For example, when promoting dietary supplements, it is forbidden to use creatives that demonstrate body imperfections and suggest fixing them with the use of the product. 

The social nature of this network means that every user should feel good about themselves. It is forbidden to appeal to the insecurities of the consumers while setting up an advertising campaign on Facebook. You should describe the features of the product, not those of your target audience. 

2019. New rules for placing ads relating to politics

In April 2019, Facebook announced the introduction of new rules for political advertising in connection with the election campaign for the European Parliament. Individuals wishing to publish an election message had to complete the authorizations process, providing information about the sources of funding. 

Thanks to this ban, Facebook users can view the ad library of political advertising materials previously posted in the author's profile. This decision was aimed at achieving two goals: 

  1. limiting voter manipulation by organizations from other EU member countries;
  2. providing transparent data about authors who publish political ads on Facebook.

2019. Prohibition to target certain types of ads by age, gender, and place of residence 

Since March 19, 2019, Facebook has banned targeting certain types of ads based on the age, gender, and place of residence of the users. 

The changes primarily affected real estate, finance, and employment sectors. An advertiser who wants to promote ads for housing, bank loans, or job vacancies can not use the age, gender, or place of residence of the target audience while configuring the campaign. They must also confirm that their ads comply with anti-discrimination laws. 

The network introduced this restriction in response to five lawsuits accusing Facebook of discrimination. During the settlement process Facebook also paid about $ 5 million to the plaintiffs.

With all that being said, the targeting ban did not affect any advertisers aside from the sectors of real estate, bank loans, and employment.

2020. Ban on advertising a number of products in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak

In March 2020, Facebook banned ads for a number of products aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. The ban included such products as: 

  1. medical face masks,
  2. hand sanitizers, 
  3. disinfecting wipes, 
  4. COVID-19 test kits. 

The social network's management stressed that they want to protect the users from "inflated prices and predatory behavior." Violation of this rule in organic posts also leads to the removal of such exploitative content.

2021. Restrictions on the ad volume

Facebook has announced that the number of ads an advertiser can run at a time will be restricted in the next year. The new rules will take effect from February 2021. The personal limit will be based on the amount of monthly ad spending in the previous year. The higher the cost, the more ads you are allowed to run.

According to the company's internal research , too many ads lead to a decrease in the overall effectiveness of advertising. As a result, this may reduce Facebook's revenue: if many advertisers are dissatisfied with poor results, the platform will start losing customers.

The future of Facebook ads

With its next step Facebook may introduce even tougher restrictions for management and control of advertising activity. Facebook is under growing public pressure, the network is accused of promoting hateful attitudes on the platform. The company's shares plunge amid all the scandals (for example, the flagrant case of Cambridge Analytica or the recent boycotts by major advertisers) and Facebook is forced to take measures.

In a recent post, Zuckerberg announced that advertising policies will include banning claims that people of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, or sexual orientation pose a threat to the physical safety, health, or survival of others.

Earlier, Facebook revealed several features that will allow users to customize their profile allowing them more control over the ad flow directed at them. In particular, users can now see less political and social issue ads, as well as shield themselves from ads of a certain advertiser even if their data is in the advertiser's Custom Audience list.

And the most recent step towards tighter limits for advertisers is the introduction of the Clear History function. It enables users to delete their off-platform activities data that was transmitted by third-party websites and services. Facebook uses this information for ad targeting.

If the social network recognizes personal data of users as their inalienable right, its advertising policy will become even more rigorous. This will force the entire advertising industry and many advertisers to adapt to the harsh new reality. 

However, we will also venture another assumption: users will receive a reward every time Facebook uses their data to serve the ads. This can completely rework the communication process between the user and the advertiser. If people get paid for the information used for marketing purposes, they may become much more lenient towards the advertising as a whole.

There were attempts to use crypto technologies to solve the issue of ad fatigue. For example, users of the decentralized search platform Brave receive payments in cryptocurrency every time their data is used to serve them an online ad. The Gener8 browser extension operates on the same principle: for each ad served, the user receives tokens that can be converted into currency or donated to charity. Perhaps one day Facebook will follow this path.

The scenarios for the future of Facebook are unlimited. However, it is already clear that the situation in which a social network processes personal data of its users without their informed consent must change. Society pressure on the advertising platforms grows every day. Users are increasingly concerned about who is using their data and how, and who is profiting from it. They require privacy, transparency, accountability, etc. No one will argue that it is people's right to know what data is being collected and how it is used. This will clearly change the world of online advertising. It remains to be seen whether affiliates will still have a place in such a world.The Flow Media Telegram Channel