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Facebook Caught in Game of ‘Whack-A-Mole’ with Ad Blockers

Facebook is caught in a seemingly endless battle with ad blockers.

Facebook recently rolled out changes to its web ads that would make them indistinguishable from the site’s organic content, essentially allowing them to slip by adblockers. In exchange, Facebook would allow its users to opt-out of ad targeting categories and customer lists. However, the changes still drew considerable ire and resentment across the web. Popular adblocker, ‘Adblock Plus’, launched a workaround just two days after Facebook’s announcement.

Facebook’s Ad Blocker Blocker Blocker

Facebook then claimed that the workaround by AdBlock Plus was not just getting rid of ads, but hamfistedly removing posts from timelines. “We’re disappointed that ad blocking companies are punishing people on Facebook as these new attempts don’t just block ads, but also posts from friends and Pages. This isn’t a good for people and we plan to address the issue,” Facebook said Thursday. Since then, an entire second round of this seemingly endless game of whack-a-mole has taken place, with AdBlock Plus issuing a workaround and Facebook working to break it. It’s easy to understand Facebook’s frustration with the issue, but characterizing the completely optional ad blocking service as “punishing” its users might be a stretch.

Rationale on Both Sides

Facebook is hoping that by making its ads non-interruptive, fast, and secure, people won’t mind. Ipsos, a research firm commissioned by Facebook, reported that 70 million Americans and as many as 200 million people worldwide use adblockers. It also found that the primary reasons cited for using an ad blocker were: avoiding disruptive ads, ads slowing down the browser experience, and security/malware risks. Privacy, ironically enough, wasn’t a top answer. Still, it’s clear that at least some portion of internet users will not accept advertising at all, and it’s not immediately clear what should be done or who will win out in the end.

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