06 May, 2010

Block Offensive Facebook Ads

Updated May 6, 2010, due to new information.

Are you tired of giving Facebook feedback on offensive ads, and yet they keep re-appearing? Just because I'm single doesn't mean I want to continually see ads to meet women! In general, I believe displaying ads in an unobtrusive way is okay, as it is what helps pay for free websites. But why even offer a feedback mechanism, if you're not going to incorporate it into future ads?

Well I did some digging, and found a Firefox Add-on, Adblock Plus, that will block ads. Adblock Plus will work well beyond Facebook, but so far I've only configured it to block Facebook ads. The easiest way to make this work is to also install the Element Hiding Helper Add-on too. Here's the steps:
  1. Download/install Adblock Plus Add-on.
  2. Restart Firefox.
  3. Download/install Element Hiding Helper Add-on.
  4. Restart Firefox. You should have a new ABP icon to the right of the Firefox Search Box.
  5. Login to Facebook.
  6. Click the down arrow and click "Select element to hide" or press Ctrl+Shift+k
  7. Move your cursor around the Title element until the Title is circled with a red box the Sponsored heading on the right until the entire ad is circled with a red box.
  8. Click your mouse.
  9. A new ("Compose element hiding rule") dialog box will open. Click "Add filter rule".
  10. Repeat this process (6 - 9) for the Image and Body Text sections of the ad.

  11. I continue to find new flavors that have forced me to be more specific (i.e. more difficult to only exclude the offensive ads). With the image filter, I went to the Advance View, clicked the "src" box, and deleted everything after the domain (left "http://creative.ak.fbcdn.net/").
  12. Now the entire Sponsored section on the page should have disappeared, leaving just the thumbs-up image.
That's it!
If you want to remove the rule, so an element is no longer blocked, these are the steps:
  1. In Firefox, go to the Tools menu and click "Adblock Plus Preferences...".
  2. Right-click on the filter and select Delete. Alternatively, you can uncheck the Enable box and test how the page looks without the filter. BTW: The Hits column tells you how many times the filter has blocked an ad.
  3. This is my current rule set, which is more complex than what I had originally posted, but still easy enough to develop.
Let me reiterate, I don't support ad blocking in general, as website owners need revenue to continue to offer free services.

In a case like Facebook, where many ads are offensive and they ask but don't use our feedback, few options are left. In fact using the Element Hiding feature, the ads are still loaded, they are just blocked from view. So in fact Facebook will report page views and collect revenue from the ads, we just wont have to see them. Seems to me this screams for a review of when and what ads are posted on pages. Advertisers don't want to spend money on ads that will never have a chance of getting clicked.

One final note as I've already mentioned, Adblock Plus has many more features for blocking ads, including subscriptions to lists which are maintained to block known offensive and malware ads. In general (IMHO) I think if you avoid the more "questionable" places on the Internet and have good virus protection, it's likely these other features are not necessary.

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