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Facebook to remove ads from offensive pages

NEW YORK — Facebook said Friday that it would remove ads from pages that contained controversial content, as it tried to protect advertisers from appearing next to offensive material that was beyond their control.

In a message posted on its website, the company wrote: “Our goal is to both preserve the freedoms of sharing on Facebook but also protect people and brands from certain types of content.”

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It added: “While we already have rigorous review and removal policies for content against our terms, we recognize we need to do more to prevent situations where ads are displayed alongside controversial Pages and Groups.”

Facebook said it would begin the manual review for pages containing sensitive content next week with a team of hundreds of employees in offices around the world.

The action comes a month after feminist groups campaigned for an improvement in Facebook’s process for identifying and removing pages that glorify violence against women. At the time, Facebook acknowledged that its procedures had not worked effectively. Activist groups sent more than 5,000 e-mails to Facebook’s advertisers and elicited more than 60,000 posts on Twitter, requesting the removal of pages featuring women who had been abused.

Advertisements appeared on the right hand side of Facebook pages with names like “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs” and “Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich,” and other pages that featured battered and bloodied women.

The protests caused Nissan and a number of smaller advertisers to temporarily withdraw their ads from the site. Other advertisers, including Zappos, Dove, and American Express, did not remove their ads but issued statements on digital media saying they did not support violence against women.

“The way you allocate your resources identifies what your priorities are,” said Soraya Chemaly, a writer and activist who was involved in the digital media campaign.

Chemaly said that since the protests in May, Facebook had been “great” about removing content the groups flagged as offensive but that the procedure for removing such content had not been systematic. “Before you can remove the ads, you need to have an accurate assessment of what counts as controversial and that’s not happening now systemically,” she said.

Elisabeth Diana, a Facebook spokeswoman, said dealing with offensive content was something the company handled on a daily basis. “We take it really, really seriously,” she said, adding that the goal of the new procedure “won’t be as much content policing as there will be advertising policing.”

Removing the ads from such pages also removes a pressure point that activist groups have used to get media companies and advertisers to listen to their concerns. “They are hoping to dismantle the leverage,” Chemaly said. “From a business perspective that makes perfect logical sense.”

The company expects to automate the process of identifying such content after a manual review of thousands of pages.

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