Following unfortunate user-endorsements like the one from Facebook user Nick Bergus, whose joke made him the face of Passion Natural Water-Based Lubricant, Facebook has made its Sponsored Stories advertising set-up more transparent. Before, the social network used some sort of auto-generation algorithm that let advertisers put users' default photos next to items they "liked." Since we often "like" things we don't want to actually endorse, Facebook has changed its policy in response to a class action lawsuit, reports The New York Times' Somini Sengupta: "Facebook has agreed to make it clear to users that when they click to like a product on Facebook, their names and photos can be used to plug the product. They will also be given a chance to decline the opportunity to be unpaid endorsers," she writes. Now that users can choose if and where their faces appear, we imagine nobody will choose to have their face next to ta big ole tub of lube—or, really, anything.
Facebook will both amend its terms of services and let users control the likes that appear in Sponsored Stories, meaning many people will get a chance to opt out. When we first noticed this phenomenon a few weeks ago, Bergus wasn't the only one annoyed with his personal endorsement. Users who found their faces next to less embarrassing products found the idea "annoying" and "creepy." Given the opportunity, we bet they too will decline, which doesn't bode well for this genius ad strategy, the saving grace of Facebook's overall ad strategy.
Facebook fought to keep the current system in place for that very reason. (The company suggested users gave "implied consent" of a product endorsement when they "liked" it, which is just not the way likes work.) The social network has called Sponsored Stories one of its most effective ad strategies, according to Sengupta. An economist for the class action suit's plaintiffs estimated that Facebook could lose $103 million in advertising revenue this way. It doesn't want to lose all that revenue from people it has lured into working as unpaid spokespeople. But, if given the choice, we would say no. And at the very least, so would Bergus.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.