Ad Disapprovals & Spam Notifications Explode As Facebook AI Struggles
Surging consumer usage and moderation challenges are likely to spell trouble this week for communicators on Facebook and Instagram, according to Mark Zuckerberg.
With unprecedented numbers of people working from home, deciding to stay home, forced into self-isolation or being out-of-work, time online is mushrooming.
According to CNN, Facebook is experiencing extraordinary uptake, as the world adjusts to extraordinary circumstances:
"Zuckerberg said Facebook's services are facing "big surges" in usage as the coronavirus forces millions around the world to stay home, describing it as "well beyond" the main annual spike usually seen on New Year's Eve.
Voice and video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, in particular, are at more than double their usual levels."
For marketers still actively running campaigns, this should provide sweet relief in the form of lower cost per impressions (CPMs). Since more time on site, equates to a greater supply of ad inventory which brings down costs.
However, in practice, lower ad delivery costs are being off-set by a deluge of system bottlenecks and bugs.
Causing problems for advertisers, influencers and publishers alike.
Facebook's Challenges With Moderation & Approvals
For Facebook and marketers by extension, the problem stems from Facebook's challenges related to moderating news feed content and ads, while balancing its teams' well-being and health.
Like many businesses, the bulk of Facebook's 45,000 full-time employees around the world have been working remotely since January.
While ad approvals and news feed moderation are carried out internally by Facebook staff, a substantial portion is outsourced to external contractors, of which there is an estimated 15,000 worldwide.
Something which attracted criticism earlier this year, when it came to light that external content moderators were being asked to sign forms stating they understood the job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the FT.
A former external Facebook moderator, Chris Gray, recently filed a lawsuit against Facebook and his contractor CPL, explaining to The Guardian:
"You would wake up and you're remembering the video of someone machine-gunning people in the Middle East somewhere, trying to think whether there was an Isis flag, and so whether it should be marked as terrorism-related or not."
Facebook's external moderators are not staff, so although Facebook has mental care policies in place for its moderators, those engaged via third parties are not always so lucky.
Sending those staff home to tag and sift throw videos of people being stoned to death, is not an option. So while all externals are now working from home, their workload has to be reallocated elsewhere.
Creating an additional headache for a platform already struggling to manage community violations and an explosion of COVID-19 fake news and misinformation.
Mo Machine Learning Mo Disapprovals
In a press conference last week Mark Zuckerberg explained that due to further complications with data protection, confidentiality and privacy it will need to rely more heavily on machine learning to do a lot of the heavy lifting on moderation and approvals.
Something expected to play havoc in the coming weeks.
Kang-Xing Jin, Facebook Head of Health
"We use a combination of people and technology to review ads on Facebook and Instagram, and our automated systems already play a big role in that process. Now with a reduced and remote workforce, we're relying on automated technology even more."
Facebook went on to explain that in the coming weeks, for advertisers, this is likely to cause:
- Delayed review for ads and commerce listings
- An increase in ads being incorrectly disapproved
- Delayed or reduced appeals
- More limited availability of Facebook in-stream ads and lower delivery
Facebook also expects further problems for publishers and creators (i.e. influencers) across Facebook as Instagram, as it struggles to find bandwidth for approving their content to host ads.
"All monetized content goes through brand safety reviews. This includes Instant Articles and videos with in-stream ads. Since our ability to review new content is now limited, we won't be able to approve all content for monetization. We're working on how to support partners at this time."
It would be wise to expect issues of this nature to persist across all social channels, not just Facebook. YouTube struggles with brand safety at the best of times, let alone in a situation with the magnitude of COVID-19.
However, all is not lost, and over the coming weeks, there are steps which marketers can take to the lessen the pain for those still running campaigns.
Rob Leathern, Facebook Product Director
"What can advertisers do to avoid disruptions? When new ads are submitted or edited (e.g. changing text, targeting or landing page), it causes a new review to occur.
If ads are performing well, consider extending the delivery period for those ads instead of creating new ads.
This will prevent unnecessary delays, as merely changing the budget or start/end date for an existing ad will NOT trigger a new review.
As with most things in life at the moment, the key to effectively running Facebook campaigns appears to be doing less.