Facebook Threatens to Ban Advertisers and Page Owners for Cloaked Links

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

If you use Facebook to help promote your business or share content with others, you may have noticed some changes to the way link boxes are handled. As was discussed in another article, these changes were setup to prevent people from changing the link box to confuse readers. Earlier this week, Facebook has announced even more efforts to prevent misinformation campaigns from spreading on the platform. And in this case, violators may be banned from ads or have their pages deleted.

Facebook has very strict guidelines for what content is acceptable for the platform and for ads. For example, links to sites that show adult materials or host violent content aren’t allowed in ads. Facebook’s algorithm for ads can do a pretty good job of finding and detecting inappropriate links (at times, it can be downright overzealous). However, some less scrupulous marketers had found a way around these restrictions. It’s these marketers who are being targeted by Facebook’s new policy.

cloaking_inlinegraphicsIn a practice called “Cloaking”, advertisers or post creators would create a link to a website. Then, they would engineer it so that when Facebook’s algorithm scanned the link, it would look legitimate, but when a mobile user clicked the link, it would take them to a restricted page. Unlike previous changes, which prevented people from unintentionally doing things that obscured the content of links (changing titles, photos, etc.), this new change deals with people who are specifically trying to cheat the system.

“We are utilizing artificial intelligence and have expanded our human review processes to help us identify, capture, and verify cloaking. We can now better observe differences in the type of content served to people using our apps compared to our own internal systems,” said Facebook product management director Rob Leathern and software engineer Bobbie Chang in a company blog post published on Wednesday.

Since they first began testing and implementing these new features, they have blocked hundreds of ads that were try to use cloaking to circumvent Facebook’s review process. Facebook will only get better at detecting these cloaked links with time.

The massive changes Facebook has made to its policies and algorithm shows that they are serious about handling the issue of disguised content. Whereas previous efforts focused on the individual posts, this new effort will punish page owners or advertisers who continue to violate the rules.

“We see cloaking as deliberate and deceptive, and will not tolerate it on Facebook,” the company warned in the blog posts. “We will remove Pages that engage in cloaking. Otherwise Pages should not see changes to their referral traffic.”

In the end, this shouldn’t affect most pages, since most people don’t try to cloak their pages in ads. If for some reason, you’ve done something like this in the past, now is the time to stop. As the last paragraph indicated, Facebook will delete the accounts of advertisers or page owners who continue to try and use cloaking.

For more recent news about changes to Facebook, read this article about new options for Facebook Messenger ads.

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