Ad blockers circumvent Facebook's unblockable ads
Well, that didn't take long.
Let the whack-a-mole game begin. A mere two days after Facebook blocked ad blocking software, the ad blockers have managed to block Facebook’s ad blocker-blocker.
Thursday morning, Adblock Plus announced that a new filter for banning Facebook’s ads has been added to the main EasyList filter list used by the extension. Here’s how to force Adblock Plus’s filter list to update if you want in on the adblocking action.
Update: Facebook already rolled out new code to break Adblock Plus's workaround, according to Techcrunch. And then Adblock Plus rolled out a new filter to block the new workaround. And then Facebook released another patch to break the new Adblock Plus filter. Whack-a-mole indeed. The rest of the original post continues below.
But you might not rush to do so. Adblock Plus’s blog post warns that the new filter hasn’t been heavily tested and may block additional content. An initial response sent out by Facebook suggests it may indeed be doing so.
“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,” a spokesperson told AdAge. “This isn’t a good experience for people and we plan to address the issue. Ad blockers are a blunt instrument, which is why we’ve instead focused on building tools like ad preferences to put control in people’s hands.”
“Punishing people” seems like a bit much, but that last line refers to enhanced ad preference tools Facebook rolled out alongside its adblocker-blocking technology.
If you see an ad in your Facebook News Feed, click the drop-down arrow on the top left of the ad, and then choose “Manage your ad preferences.” There, you’ll be able to see which topics Facebook thinks you’re into, and advertises against. Deleting them all should eliminate hyper-targeted ads—though not all ads, and Facebook will repopulate the list over time. Blocking ads via ad blockers isn’t possible in Facebook’s mobile apps, only in-browser.
If the new filter is indeed blocking normal posts and pages, the issue lies with Facebook, Adblock Plus communications manager Ben Williams told CNET. “If they are classifying ads as normal content it would appear they have an issue on their end.”
Adblock Plus isn’t the only adblocker software investigating Facebook’s new stance. When reached for comment, uBlock Origin founder Raymond Hill pointed out that an issue had already been opened about Facebook’s adblocker-blocking. Since then, uBlock Origin has also added a new filter that eliminates Facebook ads.
The story behind the story: Adblocking is a contentious issue. Some publishers liken it to stealing, while users activate adblockers for a number of reasons, ranging from privacy and security concerns to flat-out disliking ads. Ironically, most of those concerns don’t apply to Facebook, as pseudonymous Twitter account SwiftOnSecurity pointed out in an astute tweet:
Little user reason for adblockers on sites like Facebook. They aren’t serving active-content ads, no malware risk. Already being tracked.— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) August 9, 2016
Earlier this year, Facebook expanded its in-house ad network reach beyond Facebook and onto other websites. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, the social giant will track you using cookies in order to serve you targeted ads as you traverse the World Wide Web—unless you use software (like uBlock Origin, Adblock Plus, or the EFF’s Privacy Badger) that hides your activity from advertisers.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on 8/11/16, but was updated on 8/12/16 with information about the fierce back and forth between Facebook and Adblock Plus.