- Facebook has shut down advertisers' ability to edit headlines and descriptions on promoted news content, a practice some publishers said misrepresented their work, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The Journal highlighted several examples of this to Facebook, which resulted in the shutdown.
- Facebook in June started preventing its users from altering news article headlines, descriptions and images within links as part of a growing defense against fake news and hoaxes. However, that policy shift didn't apply to advertisers at the time, who would alter headlines to subtly boost coverage of their brands and products, the Journal said. Publishers are still able to edit their own headlines when sharing on Facebook.
- In other Facebook news, ProPublica reported it was able to micro-target Facebook ads to a number of highly offensive and racist categories including "Jew haters." Other media companies were able to do so as well. Facebook responded stating that its ad platform uses automated algorithms that create and surface the categories based on user information and behavior, but it does attempt to remove offensive tags as it becomes aware of them. In a follow-up blog post, the company announced it's putting some self-reported targeting fields on hold until it can better monitor for discriminatory or hateful categories.
Publisher concern over their content being misrepresented on Facebook isn't surprising, especially given the platform's rocky relationship with spreading fake news and other misleading content. The Journal pointed to a few examples of marketers manipulating copy for their own purposes: A Business Insider article on the mattress company Casper, for example, appeared with the headline: "I bought a bed from the Target-backed 'Warby Parker of mattresses' and I'll never buy one in stores again." Casper promoted that link, but with a different headline: "How Casper is Revolutionizing the Way We Sleep." Last year, BuzzFeed published an article about the Quip toothbrush with the title, "I Tried The Hipster Toothbrush That's All Over Facebook And TBH I Loved It". But Quip bought Facebook ads that edited out "hipster" and "TBH."
Facebook might be costing itself some serious ad dollars with the policy shift, which could come as a blow as ad load growth continues to stagnate. A marketer at Quip told the Journal that the brand might be less likely to spend on ads promoting publisher content, stating that those posts are often "unusable in their natural form."
Still, Facebook has been taking a number of steps to better monitor the types of content shared on its platform and how they relate to advertisers. Earlier this week, it unveiled new Content Guidelines for Monetization that provide eligibility standards about what can and can't be monetized through advertising, a signal that it supports brand safety and wants to provide more clarity to publishers, creators and brands. The move is part of broader effort to clean up the digital space as concerned advertisers peel back their spend with the channel. Those concerns could still ramp up given the ProPublica news, which suggests that, despite Facebook's best efforts, hate-related content still slips through the cracks.