Adblock Plus chalk talk takes stock: Facebook's gonna block our block of their block of our block? Let's rock

Filter-flinger suggests the FTC could even step in

The developers of the banner-busting Adblock Plus (ABP) browser plugin say they will continue efforts to shield Facebook users from the social network's sponsored content.

ABP head of communications Ben Williams said that while Facebook can currently serve the ads to users running the plugin, developers are working to re-block the posts in what he called a battle "between Facebook and all web citizens."

"While Facebook appears to have had the last word for now, this, friends, is a long game," Williams wrote in a company blog post.

Rejecting El Reg's preferred terming of the battle as an "arms race," Williams instead suggests the matter is more like a game of ping pong, with Facebook constantly updating the ad code to evade ABP's EasyList filters, and ABP then adjusting the filters to catch the re-written code and hide the paid-for "sponsored" post.

"It was indeed a back-and-forth battle, because they would change their indicators, the open source community that updates the EasyList filters would spot the new ad indicators, Facebook would remove again, the community would block again, etc," Williams said.

While Facebook argues that the ads are necessary to cover the costs of running its social network as a free service (and oddly attempting to portray itself as a defender of journalism in the process), Adblock counters that the sponsored posts are not only annoying, but will potentially mislead users.

Williams even goes so far as to suggest that, by continuing to try and hide the sponsored content from Adblockers by camouflaging them in with legitimate posts, Facebook could be violating Federal Trade Commission laws on labeling advertisements.

"Clearly differentiating between paid-for and organic content is hugely important, because journalism is supposed to be that 'fourth estate' which informs us about what politicians and businesspeople are doing," Williams said.

"An ad is something different, because its intention is not to inform, but to market. For the consumer, knowing the difference is crucial."

In the meantime, Williams said that ABP will continue to look for solutions from both its own developer community and other ad-blocking organizations and researchers to update its filters and develop a long-term solution to catch Facebook's ads regardless of the social network's evasion techniques. ®

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