Facebook to Penalize Low Quality Sites

John Lister's picture

Facebook says it will no longer accept advertisements that link to "low-quality" web pages. It's also going to reduce the likelihood that people see user-posted links to such pages.

The system Facebook uses for identifying such pages will be automated but is based on guidelines developed from manually reviewing "hundreds of thousands" of pages that Facebook had linked to. After staff decided which of these sites were low quality, its computers looked through those pages to spot patterns of common characteristics. (Source: fb.com)

Toenail Fungus Unwelcome

Facebook isn't saying exactly what the criteria is for declaring a page low quality, partly because that would tip off page creators looking to make as little changes as possible while still getting links. However, it said some key issues include:

  • Whether the page has a lot of original content, compared to a small amount of content surrounded by ads.
  • Whether the site has pop-up ads that get in the way of the content users are trying to read.
  • Whether the ads are misleading or malicious.
  • Whether the ads contain graphic or offensive material - whether that be adult-oriented content on a site where you wouldn't expect to see it, or unwelcome images such as - in Facebook's words - "toenail fungus" that aren't relevant to the supposed content of the page. (Source: techcrunch.com)

As part of the vetting, Facebook will use image recognition tools to figure out the content of ads that appear on the page, including text that is part of the ad images.

Entire Sites Could Be Hit

To start off with, Facebook will only penalize individual pages. However, it says it may downgrade entire sites if they repeatedly get picked up.

Sites judged low quality will be affected in two ways. The first is that when a Facebook user's friend links to such a site, it will now carry less weight when Facebook determines the order of pages in the "Top Stories" view.

That's the default way people see their newsfeed on Facebook, with stories appearing in what Facebook considers the order of likely relevance to the particular user. That's significant because for many Facebook users who don't use any form of filtering, there are now more stories and posts in their newsfeed than they have time to scroll through.

Secondly, Facebook may stop the site owners from buying an ad promoting a link to the low-quality page. It's not clear if the threshold for being banned from advertising will be higher, lower or identical to the one that leads to a ranking penalty.

While many have welcomed the changes, some have expressed concern that website owners could be penalized based on the content of third-party ads that they host but don't personally verify before they appear.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Facebook right to make these changes? Are the suggested criteria fair tools for determining low-quality sites? Should Facebook allow people to buy ads to link to any legal website rather than apply a quality threshold?

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stekcapofni's picture

I wished Facebook would focus more on blocking chain-letters, and frivolous re-posting (especially in Messenger). I don't do/use Facebook but my wife is always complaining about how much BS she has to wade through to get to the stuff that matters to her.

How many time are we gonna be alerted to the "fact" that Bill Gates has decided that he has too much money and wants to redistribute it?

How many warnings of loss of life/health/wealth for failure to pass a message on to everyone in their contact book?