Adage reports that Facebook is now letting users preemptively block the platform from showing them ads on two topics: Alcohol and parenting. Speaking to the site, Mark Rabkin says it was out of empathy for users who have experienced the loss of a child.
"Those are the two most common topics," said Mark Rabkin, vp of core ads at Facebook. "For families who experience the loss of a child, to continue see ads about parenting and new baby stuff, that can be really upsetting."
It's not uncommon for expectant parents to "like" any manner of baby-related material on the service: Nappies, formula, neonatal vitamins and so on. There's even a number of apps for the service designed to track pregnancy. Because of the way Facebook responds to users' likes and engagements, in the terrible misfortune of a miscarriage, the expectant parents will log on to find any number of baby related ads and sponsored content.
Obviously, that can be traumatic enough to keep people off the service altogether. The update will add a section that says "Hide Ad Topics" and will let users block on those topics. In an email to Gizmodo, a Facebook spokesperson had the following comment:
"This is an early test that will allow people to hide ad topics they prefer not to see. We are starting with alcohol and parenting since those were the two most common topics that came up in our research."
Similarly, alcohol ads can be potentially triggering and painful for those in recovery for addiction. Adage also reports that Facebook may consider adding other topics to its preemptive block list if users flag them as being offensive or especially painful.
Ad preferences have been one of the most controversial parts of the Facebook experience in its most tumultuous year yet, from targeting activists for surveillance, to algorithmic discrimination against users based on their race, and the ongoing Fake News saga. This might be a step in the right direction.