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Facebook Releases Ad Guidelines for What Content Is — And Isn’t — Acceptable

Facebook, as it gears up to serve video ads in content from more partners, has spelled out the rules of the road for content partners about what it deems OK for monetization.

Earlier this month, Facebook launched Watch, a new video tab aggregating hundreds of shows (including some it funded), aimed at boosting ad revenue from longer-form videos. The company has been testing midroll ad breaks with a select group of partners, and it’s now in the process of expanding the program more broadly.

Ultimately, Facebook wants to be a place where anyone can publish videos and make money from them — just like Google’s YouTube. It’s not surprising, then, that by and large the Facebook standards for what is kosher for advertising are similar to YouTube’s guidelines.

Under the Facebook guidelines, for example, content will be sidelined from advertising if it is sexual in nature; focuses on depictions of violence or illegal activity; or misappropriates children’s characters. The rules also exclude content that is “incendiary, inflammatory, demeaning or disparages” people or groups, while “inappropriate language” — including anything intended to offend or insult others — also is out of bounds. Even newsworthy subjects that are upsetting, like videos about natural disasters, may be ineligible for ads.

“As we continue to expand our monetization offerings, it’s important that we provide clear guidelines around what can and cannot be monetized on our platform,” Nick Grudin, VP of media partnerships, wrote in a blog post.

With the guidelines, Facebook wants to assure advertisers that it’s a “brand-safe” place to spend their money. Marketers “need to feel confident and in control over where their ads appear,” Grudin explained. Initially, the ad-eligibility monetization guidelines apply to videos on Facebook, and will extend to Instant Articles over time.

Along with the ad-friendly content guidelines, Facebook also is trying to bolster Madison Avenue’s confidence in its ad metrics, after a series of revelations about is miscalculations on this front. The company announced that it is seeking accreditation from the Media Rating Council (MRC) to cover three areas: first-party served ad impression reporting; third-party viewability partner integrations; and 2-second video ads.

“When it comes to verifying ad performance, Facebook has been accused of ‘grading our own homework,'” Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, wrote in a blog post. While the company currently works with 24 third-party media-measurement firms, she added, “we recognize the industry’s desire for more independent third-party validation.”

To be eligible for monetization, creators must comply with Facebook’s policies and terms. Those include its community standards — which among other things prohibit posting copyright-infringing material and content that promotes terrorism — as well as payment and page terms.

In addition, creators and publishers “must have an authentic, established presence on Facebook,” with a profile or Page on the service for at least one month. Additionally, some features like the midroll video ads require a “sufficient follower base,” according to Grudin, although what that means specifically is unclear. Content partners also can’t trade in fake news, clickbait or “sensationalism,” Facebook says, and violators potentially will be suspended from all advertising programs.

If Facebook determines that content does not comply with its advertising standards, it will notify partners that it has removed the ads. Creators can appeal the decision, which the company pledges to “review as soon as possible.” Even if it’s “de-monetized,” content will remain on Facebook as long as it conforms with the site’s community standards.

“While the guidelines do not cover every scenario, they are a good indicator of what types of content are likely to generate more revenue,” Grudin wrote, adding that “even if your content is eligible for ads, some brands and advertisers may choose to use brand-safety controls to tailor where their ads run.”

Facebook will pay eligible content partners a 55% split of ad revenue run against their content, which is the same split YouTube extends under its standard creator program.

Here’s a rundown of content types that Facebook says are ineligible for monetization:

  • Misappropriation of Children’s Characters: Content that depicts “family entertainment characters engaging in violent, sexualized, or otherwise inappropriate behavior.” That includes, for example, situations where characters are seriously injured, are involved in “vile or shocking acts,” or involved in behavior such as smoking or drinking.
  • Tragedy and Conflict: Content that focuses on real-world tragedies, including depictions of death, casualties, physical injuries — even if the intention is to promote awareness or education. This includes subjects like natural disasters, crime, self-harm, medical conditions and terminal illnesses.
  • Debated Social Issues: Content that is “incendiary, inflammatory, demeaning or disparages people, groups, or causes.”
  • Violent Content: Content that depicts threats or acts of violence against people or animals, where this is the focal point and is not presented with additional context. That includes “excessively graphic violence in the course of video gameplay.”
  • Adult Content: Content where the focal point is nudity or adult content, including depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or “activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.”
  • Prohibited Activity: Content that “depicts, constitutes, facilitates, or promotes the sale or use of illegal or illicit products, services or activities,” such as coordinated criminal activity, drug use, or vandalism.
  • Explicit Content: Content that depicts “overly graphic images, blood, open wounds, bodily fluids, surgeries, medical procedures, or gore that is intended to shock or scare.”
  • Drugs or Alcohol Use: Content depicting or promoting the excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, or drug use.
  • Inappropriate Language: Content should not “contain excessive use of derogatory language,” including language intended to offend or insult particular groups of people.

Facebook says it is using a combination of automated and manual methods to determine whether content is eligible for monetization. “We’ll do our best to consider the context and purpose, including content that is educational or intended to be comedic,” the company says in the new guidelines.

At the same time, Facebook says it reserves the right to reject ads “at our discretion, including from certain advertisers or certain formats.” Separately, it’s worth noting, the social giant earlier this month disclosed that sources linked to Russia had paid $100,000 for thousands of political ads on Facebook over the past two years — which may have been part of the country’s alleged attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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