Should Black Hat Advertisers on Facebook Brace Themselves for the Rough Times Ahead?

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Image: TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL/AP

Facebook has been all over the news this week as Mark Zuckerberg faced Congress Wednesday, and again yesterday, regarding the company’s data and privacy policies. Before he testified on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released his prepared statement.

Image: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

In the statement Zuckerberg prepared for Congress, he gave a detailed account of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and issues regarding the Russian election interference. His statement appears to reiterate many of the changes Facebook announced in the last couple weeks, which included their restriction of APIs and shutting down of their partner categories.

Moreover, it explained what happened with Cambridge Analytica and their issues with Russian election interference, and what steps Facebook is taking in order to prevent these situations from occurring again in the future. While it seems like Facebook is tightening its belt by making various changes in order to protect user’s data, it’s is uncertain how these steps will affect Facebook advertisers. However, we do know that they are going after individuals they believe are improperly using data using many different techniques. This means that for black hat marketers, things may get tough.

Black hat marketing is often regarded as deceiving and/or unethical. On the other hand, it is still widely used because of the lucrative rewards from the high ROI it can bring. Based on what Facebook has expressed to the public, black hat marketers may have rough times ahead of them if Facebook start clamping down though.

In his statement, Zuckerberg said one of the ways Facebook is dealing with data breaches is by “Significantly increasing our investment in security. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review. We’ll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year.” Hiring over 5,000 new employees whose sole purpose is to review content is a very large investment for the company, which demonstrates that they are putting in efforts to try and put an end to their issues with data privacy and malicious advertisers.

On this note, he added: “I’ve directed our teams to invest so much in security — on top of the other investments we’re making — that it will significantly impact our profitability going forward. But I want to be clear about what our priority is: protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”

The action they are taking suggests that they are getting much stricter, and therefore we wonder whether black hat advertisers are going to feel the heat as things start being implemented.

The CEO also expressed that Facebook would be doing full forensic audits upon detecting suspicious activity and they will ban apps that they deem to be using data improperly. Following this, they plan on telling users who have been affected that their data may have been improperly used.

Additionally, he declared that Facebook has built advanced AI tools with the goal of using them to delete fake accounts. Zuckerberg claims that they have already successfully removed several fake accounts. It is unclear what is meant by fake accounts, and whether this could refer/include to “farmed” Facebook accounts that are often sold and ran in mass by back hat affiliates.

It is possible that these new changes will have very little affect on advertisers. Yet, they should be ready to adapt, otherwise, they may have a very difficult time with Facebook. As the situation unravels, we will see how Facebook’s new changes will affect advertisers, particularly black hat advertisers.

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