Problem for Facebook advertisers

As social media sites pursue advertising in a bid for new revenue, they are finding that they must also create a safe space for the advertisers they attract.

As social media sites pursue advertising in a bid for new revenue, they are finding that they must also create a safe space for the advertisers they attract.

With the money, they are discovering, comes responsibility.

Facebook learnt that the hard way last week. After failed attempts to get the social network to remove pages glorifying violence against women, feminist activists waged a digital media campaign that highlighted marketers whose ads were found alongside those pages. Nissan and several smaller advertisers temporarily removed their ads from the site.

Under pressure, Facebook acknowledged that its systems to identify and remove such content had not worked effectively and promised to improve those processes. The company began removing the pages in question.

The episode underscored a conundrum for social media sites forged from the philosophy that free speech should thrive on the internet: Will they be able to control content created by their users so that advertisers are not embarrassed by material beyond their control?

"Certainly advertisers ... want to reach consumers in a positive way," said David Reuter, vice-president for corporate communications at Nissan Americas. "It is up to the social companies to create an environment that provides that level of support and safety for the companies."

Nissan began working with Facebook to find a solution, Mr Reuter said, and the brand has resumed advertising on the site.

How advertisers will be able to prevent their brands from appearing on Facebook pages with offensive content is unclear.

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