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Facebook nixes ads from offensive pages to dodge boycott

Facebook has announced a change in its policy whereby advertisements will no longer run on sections of the site with controversial content.

Starting today, 1 July, Facebook pledged to implement a new reviews process that will strip ads from Pages and Groups with certain types of content. "By the end of the week, we will remove ads from all Pages and Groups that fall into this new, more expansive restricted list," the social network said.

Over the years, there have been a number of controversies regarding Pages and Groups that some Facebook members have found offensive. Facebook's terms of service bans content that is "directly harmful," but allows content that is offensive or controversial in an effort to "balance concerns about free expression and community respect."

There have been some concessions. Recently, Facebook announced that it will review the guidelines it currently has in place for removing offensive content, and hold those who create the content more accountable, particularly as it relates to hate speech. Back in 2009, it also yanked two Holocaust hate groups.

But businesses shell out good money to advertise on Facebook, and likely don't take too kindly to having their brands displayed next to questionable, user-created pages, even if they don't run afoul of Facebook's policies.

"While we already have rigorous review and removal policies for content against our terms, we recognise we need to do more to prevent situations where ads are displayed alongside controversial Pages and Groups. So we are taking action," Facebook said.

Specifically, the ad ban will apply to any "violent, graphic or sexual content. Now, instead of a row of ads on the right-hand side of these pages, no ads will appear.

Facebook stressed that this effort will be a work in progress. At first, the process will be manual, but later, Facebook will implement a "more scalable, automated way to prevent and/or remove ads appearing next to controversial content."

"We are confident the immediate steps we're taking will result in a significantly improved approach to preventing these instances from occurring, and we are committed to making this process work for everyone who uses Facebook," the company concluded.

The announcement comes ahead of an effort by Google to crack down on Blogger users who start blogs in order to monetise adult content. "We will be updating our Content Policy to strictly prohibit the monetisation of adult content on Blogger. We will remove blogs that are displaying advertisements to adult websites," a Google spokeswoman said.