AdBlock plus blasts Facebook’s battle against ad blocking as ‘anti-user’

AdBlock Plus has accused Facebook's new practice of being 'anti-user' / The Drum

Adblock Plus has described Facebook’s decision to block ad blockers on the desktop version of its site as an “unfortunate move” that “takes a dark path against user choice.”

The company, which provides one of the most-recognised ad blocking extensions in the market, has penned a blog slamming Facebook’s clampdown on the practice.

Facebook announced yesterday (9 August) that it was embarking on a crackdown to overpower the tools for the first time, as well as offering users more control over the ads they want to see.

AdBlock Plus, however, has taken issue with Facebook’s newly-adopted stance, with Ben Williams, communications manager at the firm’s parent company Eyeo GmbH, writing a response titled: “Oh well, looks like Facebook just got all anti-user.”

Pointing to Facebook’s press release revealing the news, in which it said that users were primarily using ad blocking software to stop “annoying, disruptive” ads, Williams wrote: “So if that’s true, Facebook apparently agrees that users have a good reason for using ad-blocking software… but yet those users shouldn’t be given the power to decide what they want to block themselves?”

“In any case, it’s hard to imagine Facebook or the brands that are being advertised on its site getting any sort of value for their ad dollar here: publishers (like Facebook) alienate their audience and advertisers (the brands) allow their cherished brand name to be shoved down people’s throats,” he continued, adding: “Yikes.”

He ended on a plea to Facebook to stop wasting time on “cat-and-mouse games that are a decade old.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to address users (like all of you!) who have chosen to block traditional ads on their own terms? That is to say, don’t you want to be consulted here?

“If nothing else, all this attention from Facebook shows that ad blocking has finally made the big time. We’re ready for our close up,” Williams finished.

Facebook's decision to block ad blocking has courted mixed response from the industry. The Interactive Advertising Bureau's president Randall Rothenberg said yesterday that the company should be "applauded for its leadership on preserving a vibrant value exchange with its users."

"Its decision to respect advertising as an essential ingredient in connecting users worldwide is spot-on, and should be replicated across the free and open Internet," he added.

Meanwhile, MediaCom's joint head of digital investment Amy Lawrence said that in the ongoing game cat and mouse between publishers and ad blockers it was interesting to see Facebook attempt to find a "middle ground."

"The circumventing of blockers is a move which will no doubt infuriate some users - while many users understand the value of content produced by the major news titles, for example, Facebook is not a content producer itself and this is a move towards understanding the value not just of content but of a platform and technology.

"In terms of what it means for advertisers; not a lot, at least in the short term. With Facebook only blocking the blockers on desktop, and with the vast majority of their traffic coming from apps, the impact of this move won't be massive, but it is clearly just the beginning. It will be interesting to see what both Facebook, and the ad blockers, do next," she added.

Serena Kutchinsky, digital editor at Newsweek that she believes Facebook is now experiencing the same "fear" as publishers over ad blocking tools, which are used by around 200 million people globally.

"While traditional media have failed to find an effective solution—either denying the problem or adding pleading anti ad-block pop ups to online articles—Facebook has taken steps to eliminate this threat to its business model."

Kutchinsky thinks Facebook's move to allow users greater control over which ads they are served "is potentially game changing."

"Facebook is firing a warning shot at ad blockers, while demonstrating that they understand how annoying and intrusive ads can be. Let’s hope the rest of the publishing industry takes note," she concluded.

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