Facebook is coming down on both sides of consumer protection with its latest update. It's making it easier for consumers to control what ads they see while at the same time making it harder for them to use ad blockers.
"We’ve all experienced a lot of bad ads: ads that obscure the content we’re trying to read, ads that slow down load times or ads that try to sell us things we have no interest in buying. Bad ads are disruptive and a waste of our time," said Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth in a blog posting.
To help with the bad-ad issue, Facebook is introducing new ad preference controls that let consumers block ads from specific companies. The controls will show you the advertisers that have you on their email lists and give you the option to block ads from those companies.
You can also block entire categories of ads -- for exaxmple, ads based on interests such as cars or, let's say, cats.
Blocking the blockers
Bosworth says the change are intended, at least in part, to remove one of the primary motivations for using ad blockers.
"We’ve designed our ad formats, ad performance and controls to address the underlying reasons people have turned to ad blocking software. When we asked people about why they used ad blocking software, the primary reason we heard was to stop annoying, disruptive ads," Bosworth said. "As we offer people more powerful controls, we’ll also begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software."
Bosworth said ad blockers are among the factors that are causing financial hardship for struggling websites said their growth "reduces the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web."
You might not think of Facebook as journalism, but Bosworth says it is "one of those free services, and ads support our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected."
It's estimated that at least a quarter of desktop users are running ad blockers, a practice most publishers regard as theft.