Facebook, Adblock Plus Spar Over Ad Blocking

Facebook and the Adblock open-source community keep thwarting each other’s efforts

The last few days have seen a back-and-forth battle between Facebook and ad-blocking technology company Adblock Plus.

On Aug. 9 Facebook announced it had found a way around Adblock’s technology, allowing it to show ads to users who have Adblock’s software installed on their devices. “Rather than paying ad blocking companies to unblock the ads we show — as some of these companies have invited us to do in the past — we’re putting control in people’s hands with our updated ad preferences and our other advertising controls,” Andrew Bosworth, VP of ads and business platforms for Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

That didn’t last long: by Aug. 11, Adblock’s community of users had found a way around Facebook’s anti-ad blocking efforts, with a new Adblock Plus filter again blocking ads on Facebook.

“Facebook might ‘re-circumvent’ at any time,” Ben Williams, spokesman and operations manager for Adblock, wrote in an Aug. 11 blog post. “This sort of back-and-forth battle between the open source ad-blocking community and circumventers has been going on since ad blocking was invented; so it’s very possible that Facebook will write some code that will render the filter useless — at any time.”

He was right: by Friday midday, Facebook and the Adblock open-source community had thwarted each other’s efforts twice each. “Should Facebook circumvent again, I’m sure another solution will arise from that open source community,” Williams wrote Aug. 12. “And so on. What is the solution? We invite publishers and web sites to work with Adblock Plus and our whitelisting process, rather than circumventing consumers’ expressed concerns.”

That whitelisting process — Adblock’s Acceptable Ad program, which allows ads to be seen even with ad-blocking software, if they meet certain requirements — requires larger online companies to pay Adblock a fee.

Groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have railed against the whitelisting model, calling it extortion, while online publishers, including The Washington Post, Condé Nast’s GQ, Yahoo and Forbes have all tackled ad blocking by either denying access to content for those with ad blocking software installed, or demanding payment for content from ad block users.

“When they’re relevant and well-made, ads can be useful, helping us find new products and services and introducing us to new experiences — like an ad that shows you your favorite band is coming to town or an amazing airline deal to a tropical vacation,” Facebook’s Bosworth wrote, detailing why the social media company is working to get past ad blocking software.