Facebook Thumbs up to Scam Ads
I’m fed up of seeing endless adverts in my Facebook feed telling me I can ‘melt away belly fat’ or ‘learn the secret to losing 2 stone in 4 weeks’ - as a woman I am bombarded with such rubbish every time I login to Facebook and frankly, I've had enough.
Bear in mind i’m an adult, I understand that these claims are untrue and pay little attention to them but impressionable teenage girls aren’t quite so discerning. To their eyes, they are seeing adverts that continually tell them that being thin is easy, an untruth that only serves to feed a negative self image.
With self esteem amongst teenage girls at an all time low and self harm and depression at an all time high, misleading advertising like this is at best highly irresponsible and unethical.
Screen grab of my Facebook page showing
2 similar ads from womenshealthmag.com 08/08/2013
Wanting to know exactly what kind of claims were being made, curiosity got the better of me one day back in July 2013, so I decided to click on one of the adverts I’d seen repeatedly appearing over the previous few days.
After clicking on one of the adverts making outrageous claims, I was taken to a web page that to all intents and purposes looked like a well known and respected women’s health magazine, which piqued my curiosity further.
With a background in web design I am particularly adept at spotting fake sites, and having moused over the page links and done a quick view of the page source, I was immediately suspicious as every link, regardless of the page it pointed to, was actually coded to go to the exact same page, a signup page offering a ‘free’ sample of a weight loss supplement for a P&P fee.
The ‘website’ the womenshealthmag.com adverts click through to – actually a single landing page designed to look like a real website using the branding from a well known women’s magazine
Suspecting that all of the information on the page was false, I submitted a positive comment to the page which showed a number of glowing reviews for the product with various names, followed by a comment form allowing people to submit their own comments. Rather unsurprisingly, 8 days later my comment still hadn’t appeared on the website.
Concerned that the advertiser was using the logo of a reputable women’s health magazine, I contacted them to let them know. Within 10 minutes of sending them an email, I was emailed back and thanked for letting them know and they said that they were already aware of the issue and had their legal team working on it.
legal team is currently working on getting them shut down.”
- Women’s Health Magazine
I then used Facebook’s own “Report an Ad” procedure. I gave them the same information I’d provided to the women’s magazine and upon submitting the form, I was told someone would be in touch in the next 48 hours. 5 days later I received a standard email acknowledging my report.
I waited a further 3 days only to find they have taken no action. The same adverts are still appearing continually on their site and have not been withdrawn despite being misleading, despite leading to a fake ‘flat’ website with false reviews on it and despite claiming they are giving away a ‘free’ product and then charging. If this is not misleading advertising then I don’t know what is.
Facebook MUST be held accountable
Despite contacting them again to find out why a scam like this is still being advertised on their website, they have failed to respond to me.
Facebook’s own advertising guidelines state “All claims in ads must be adequately substantiated” and goes on to state “Ads, or categories of ads, that receive a significant amount of negative user feedback, or are otherwise deemed to violate our community standards, are prohibited and may be removed.”
- Their adverts are misleading
- The advert landing page is using the branding and logo of another company that has confirmed they have stolen their logo and identity
- The adverts make absurd claims from "lose 2 stone in 4 weeks" through to "drop 9 waist sizes in 1 week"
How on earth can Facebook claim that such adverts meet their advertising guidelines?
Even when an advert receives complaints and violates their own standards, the advert may be removed?
Facebook takes a wooly and liberal approach presumably because it is in their best interests to generate as much advertising revenue as they can, regardless of the outrageous claims their advertisers are making and regardless of reported identity theft and scam pages.
Allowing scammers like this to advertise on their website is morally reprehensible and i’m gravely concerned that even after having this bought to their attention, Facebook have done absolutely nothing to remove this particular advertiser and their various adverts from their website.
I find adverts such as this, targeting women and girls and playing on their insecurities incredibly worrying, knowing that millions of other parents are unwittingly allowing their daughters to be exposed to this sort of advertising is particularly alarming.
It worries me more however, that Facebook has such lax advertising rules relating to misleading advertising like this, that it chooses make an informed decision and take no action, leaving the adverts up and running.
Far from demonstrating that Facebook is a socially responsible business, it confirms the exact opposite, that Facebook are happy to let misleading, scam adverts run on their website in the ongoing pursuit of increased advertising revenue.
Shell Robshaw-Bryan is a marketing consultant and professional blogger who works for the Cheshire based digital agency Surefire Media, where she specialises in organic search, content strategy and social media engagement. Shell has extensive experience in consumer retail brand marketing, web design, SEO and content writing and ran her own web design and SEO business for a number of years.
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