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Facebook and Adblock Plus at War

Many online users who are tired of seeing ads everywhere use a browser extension that prevents ads from showing up.

Adblock Plus, a free open-source extension, is one of the most popular of these.

Of course, ad blocking is a problem for companies like Facebook that make the majority of their revenue from online ads.

It can also pose a challenge to brands who want their ads to reach a wide audience. This week, Facebook attempted to side-step Adblock to keep all its ads visible, and this prompted a back-and-forth battle between the online giant and the ad blocking extension.

It all started on Tuesday, August 9th, when Facebook announced that they would “begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software.”

Facebook did this by altering the code of ads that identified them as advertisements, although they would still display a “sponsored” tag for users. To compensate users, Facebook claimed they were improving their ad controls.

Now, Facebook users can go to their Ad Preferences page and remove interests or businesses they don’t want to see ads from. “These improvements,” Facebook explained, “are designed to give people even more control over how their data informs the ads they see.” Facebook does not offer an option to turn off advertisements.

Adblock Plus was not happy with Facebook’s update and claimed that Facebook was taking “a dark path against user choice.” The extension turned to its open source community and, within two days, developed a filter that would re-block the ads Facebook had changed the code for.

via Adblock Plus

But the battle doesn’t end there. In a statement to TechChrunch, Facebook claimed that Adblock Plus’s new filter was removing posts from friends and Pages, not only advertisements.

Facebook quickly came up with an updated code that disabled Adblock’s new filter workaround. Throughout the day on August 12th, Facebook and Adblock went back and forth as they each tried to disable the other’s latest update.

So far, Facebook has been faster at fighting back. It takes longer for Adblock Plus to crowdsource its solutions and then update its filter. The extension community, however, is committed to developing new ways to block Facebook’s ads. In their latest blog post, they explained, “We clearly feel like giving users control of their internet experience is better than taking it away…we’ll do what we can to keep users in control in the apparently endless loop.” The back-and-forth battle, then, seems very likely to continue.


Written by content manager Meghan Woolley

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