Facebook published a long blog post today about their enforcement efforts around app advertising and offer scams. And while they didn’t mention all the negative press that has hit them this week, that’s the reason for the new communication.
Facebook says that deceptive ads are a widespread problem on the Web (which is true), and they say they’ve been fighting these scams for some time (which is also true, albeit a little slowly sometimes). They point to their updated policies on third party ads on the Facebook platform from July – which are aggresively pro-user but have rarely been enforced. They also note that they have disabled two ad networks since then, and are disabling two more now.
In my talks with Facebook earlier this week they took the position that they’ve been aggresively protecting users, and they’re taking the same tone in this blog post. They say that with so many ads and so many apps its impossible to monitor the entire platform effectively. My answer was that it took me about 10 seconds to find really scammy ads on FarmVille, the most popular social game on Facebook with 63+ million monthly users. If they just start with the big guys, a lot of the problem will go away.
In our original post we showed a financial connection between these ads and Facebook. Apps take the money from the ads and then aggressively buy ads on Facebook, effectively giving them a cut. So slow enforcement against even the top apps when they are so blatantly violating the rules is both unacceptable and suspicious.
Facebook says they are building out teams and technologies to address the problem.
We’ve witnessed a remarkable effort this week by industry players to clean up the ecosystem, even while Facebook has been silent on the issue. MySpace, Zynga and RockYou all took steps to eliminate scams.
Which is remarkable when you think about it. Anyone who doesn’t engage in scammy behavior right now is at a monetization disadvantage. There are real similarities between this issue and steroid use in baseball. As long as the MLB didn’t really enforce steroid use among players, it was a competitive necessity to take the drugs, and so many more players took them than otherwise would. What we saw this week was the equivalent of the MLB staying silent while a group of the most popular players admitted to steroid use and promised to stop using it from now on.
If Facebook is serious about stopping app offer scams, it will all be a lot easier in the future for developers to abstain. Hopefully, this is the start of a much cleaner Facebook.
But if they continue with their arguments that Facebook is no dirtier than the rest of the Internet, and resist outside pressure to clean up their community, we could quickly be back where we were just a week ago.