Facebook enables advertisers to opt out

Facebook advertisers will be able to opt out of parts of the social networking website following the discovery that some campaigns were running close to content promoting the British National Party, the far-right political party.

Companies including Vodafone, Virgin Media and First Direct, the internet bank owned by HSBC, last week pulled Facebook campaigns after finding these were running next to a page for the BNP.

The US-based company has updated its system to permit UK advertisers to avoid appearing next to listings for the estimated 6m user groups on Facebook.

The blocking feature, which is likely to be offered to advertisers internationally at a later date, will attempt to address marketers' concerns about the unpredictable and relatively uncensored nature of some of the fast-growing site's content. Coupled with a pre-existing promise to set up a dedicated UK sales team, Facebook will try to head off further problems in the UK.

The incident highlighted a risk of advertising on social network websites, which are nevertheless attractive to advertisers because they offer large audiences and innovative marketing formats. Most of the businesses had bought space "blind" from third-party sales houses which sell bundles of slots across many different websites, as there are currently no Facebook sales teams in the UK.

The BNP page was in the political groups section of the site. Facebook said the BNP did not break any of the site's terms of use.

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