Facebook is putting its foot down on ad blockers.
The social network announced in a blog post on Tuesday that it is now circumventing ad blockers so that desktop users will see ads regardless of whether they have the software installed.
In return, the company is giving users more control over what types of ads they are subjected to.
Facebook’s updated “Ad Preferences” panel lets you opt out of ads related to a particular interest, like “travel” or “cats,” or those from a specific company or organization. It also shows you a run-down of businesses that have added you to a customer list for whatever reason.
Facebook said it arrived at these new features after enlisting research firm Ipsos Connect to survey 2,000 people across six countries about ad blocking. The study unsurprisingly found that the majority of people who use ad blockers do so because they are tired of disruptive or intrusive ads and are worried about possible security risks.
The use of ad blockers has soared in popularity worldwide over the past few years as the software becomes easier to use and consumers more aware of the extensive tracking capabilities of online advertisers.
That trend is worrying for online publishers, who see the spread of such tools as an existential threat.
But Facebook has remained mostly insulated from any serious harm because the vast majority of its ad revenue now comes from mobile. There, ad blocking has yet to really catch on, and Facebook’s app is immune to all but the hardiest ad blockers.
Still, the company acknowledged in a financial filing in January that desktop ad blocking has impacted its revenue “from time to time.”
Facebook isn’t the only company fighting back against the ad blockers. Their rise set the stage for a cottage industry of startups that help publishers bar users until they agree to agree to turn off ad blockers, target pleading messages at them or bypass the software altogether.
Most ad blocking companies also accept money in one form or another in return for whitelisting ads on a particular site, a practice the industry trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has equated to an “old-fashioned extortion racket.”
Major companies like Microsoft, Google and content farm Taboola have reportedly paid such fees to German software developer Eyeo, which runs the hugely popular service AdBlock Plus and operates a master whitelist contracted out to at least a handful of other ad blocking apps.
Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of ads and business platform, slammed that business model in Tuesday’s blog post, calling it “at best confusing to people” and detrimental to “the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web.”
The IAB, which has been vocal about its distaste for ad blockers, greeted Facebook’s announcement with sweeping praise in a statement provided by the company.
“Facebook should be applauded for its leadership on preserving a vibrant value exchange with its users,” IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg said. “For hundreds of years, advertising and marketing have been central to the delivery of entertainment and services that are otherwise free to consumers. In addition, advertising is essential to the functioning of democratic capitalism.”
Update, Tuesday 10:30 a.m. PST:
AdBlock Plus spokesman Ben Williams responded to the news in a statement titled, “Oh well, looks like Facebook just got all anti-user.”
“This is an unfortunate move, because it takes a dark path against user choice,” he said.
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