Adblock Plus Will Roll Out Another Counterattack to Facebook’s ‘Ad-Blocker Blocker’

The ceasefire between Facebook and Adblock Plus is about to end.

In an interview at the dmexco conference in Cologne this morning, Adblock Plus co-founder and chairman Tim Schumacher told me that his company would counter Facebook’s latest move to stop its popular ad blocker within the next couple of days.

For most of August, Adblock Plus and Facebook have engaged in a hacking war. On August 11, Facebook altered the code of its ads to resemble News Feed posts, thus preventing Adblock Plus from filtering out ads on desktop. Adblock Plus parried within a few hours, and Facebook subsequently responded.

Now, Adblock Plus is ready to counter again.

“They rolled something out. Two days later, we rolled something out. Then they did again, then us. Now they’ve had it for two, three weeks,” Schumacher said. “Then we’ll roll out another update in a couple of days.”

Schumacher seems to be enjoying the game of cat and mouse with the social giant. “That part was more fun because it showed the hypocrisy of Facebook—of saying, ‘We don’t respect the choice of the user that they’ve installed an ad blocker.'”

Schumacher was surprised Facebook attempted to go around Adblock Plus in the first place. At the same time, however, he expressed admiration for the social giant’s approach to advertising.

“We would not have thought [this would come] from Facebook, because Facebook actually is a company that cares about usability a lot,” he said. “I spoke to a Facebook engineer a year ago, and they actually have a very low threshold of how user interaction can change when they introduce a new ad format.

“They do what every publisher should do. They measure the product as the sum of content and advertising as a whole. And Facebook has thrown out a lot of advertising. Like there was outrage in the press that Facebook introduces autoplay video ads [with sound]. It never really happened, because user interactions were bad and Facebook was smart enough to realize that.”

It’s unclear what Adblock Plus’s workaround will be, but the company will likely use Facebook’s ad disclosures to its advantage.

A duo of Ivy Leaguers—Princeton assistant professor Arvind Narayanan and undergraduate Grant Storey—recently created an experimental Chrome highlighter that marks News Feed posts as ads by using Facebook’s “Sponsored” disclosure. They meant to prove that, due to the disclosure tags required by the FTC, Facebook could never truly hide ads from ad blockers. Schumacher echoed that point repeatedly.

Adblock Plus

“At the end of the day, what will make the ad blockers successful is the FTC’s rules of advertising disclosure,” he said. “If Facebook would not need to disclose their advertising, they could build it in a way where we could not detect it.”

“At the end of the day, the fact that Facebook will always have to disclose their advertising means that they’re always vulnerable.”

He was also quick to note that he believes disclosures are an important way to protect consumers.

“It’s a rule that’s not talked about enough, in terms of content advertising and influencer marketing. I mean, there’s a lot of shit happening. And a lot of stuff that still needs to be done. We don’t want to kill banner advertising just to have influencers do product placements which aren’t clearly marked. At the end of the day, the fact that Facebook will always have to disclose their advertising means that they’re always vulnerable. Because the human eye should detect it. And what the human eye can detect, you can detect with ad rules.”

Image by Getty
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