For a few weeks now I’ve been noticing shoddy Facebook ads. Big black men looking for a chance at love with a faithful woman, Dr. O’s Wrinkle Eraser, and She likes 2 really party! Coors Light MILFs. The above ads appear most frequently in my newsfeed — so I decided it was time to investigate them.
I checked all my browser plugins and extensions; ran complete antivirus and malware scans; used different computers and logged in with Charter (work) and CenturyLink (home), and experienced the same sordid results.
The ad that I found most disturbing was the Coors Light ad. I drink beer, but I never drink Coors and I am not an MILF.
According to Facebook —these ads appear in my newsfeed based on the things I do on Facebook (commenting, liking a page); on information that I share with advertisers; or because of the way that I use other websites and apps.
The investigation begins
Big black men
I honestly never really look at skin color; religious affiliation; sexual preferences; or any other label that society subscribes to when I choose my friends. I tend to choose friends that are interesting, diverse, and who think outside the box.
Facebook states that their ads are designed to help advertisers show people ads they find interesting and relevant. No offense intended — BlackPeopleMeet.com is designed for Black dating and to bring Black people together. I am a Caucasian. How is this ad relevant for me?
This ad was minimally disturbing, and mainly due to negative site feedback on the web. If you Google this site you can easily find hundreds of angry consumer complaints. hpHosts also lists this site as being engaged in the use of misleading marketing tactics.
Over time I’ve simplified my skin care regiment: I use Andalou cleanser, witch hazel (toner), and Virgin Coconut Oil as a moisturizer. It’s quick and simple, and I do not have to spend outrageous sums of money on my face. I have no need to search for any skin care products on any of the major snoop search engines(Google, Yahoo, Bing). Obviously this shady advertiser is targeting females over the age of 40.
Once you click on the ad, you land on a Woobox welcome tab that instantly zips you off to an external URL [Figure 1]. The site you land on is bogus. It is an anonymous domain that was created in mid-July. The site entrance simply says Hello. They frequently edit the landing link to evade detection and their site is not indexed by any search engines. One thing remains the same though: id=294497750692856&sk=app_208195102528120. The IP address: 188.8.131.52 reveals far more information.
Just like the Wrinkle Eraser ad above — the MILF ad utilizes the same Woobox strategy, only this time you end up at a porn site.
When you create an ad on Facebook, you have the option to select a landing view. Rogue advertisers build an app (many use a Woobox custom tab), to insert an auto-redirect to an external URL within the tab’s iFrame area. Using this option, an advertiser can easily evade detection by Facebooks filtering system.
Facebook should be vetting their ads. Since there is no way to contact them outside of reporting the page/app (which may or may not still be in circulation in 2014) — stay safe and don’t click on any of their ads.I use the no-click rule as a silent form of protest against a site that does not believe in two-way communication.