Facebook has temporarily removed the ability for foreign-language publishers to run ads as it deals with a shortage of content reviewers amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The social network issued a blog post last week hinting at a reduction in monetisation opportunities for content creators and publishers, as contract workers who perform content review for the platform were sent home.
While some contract reviewers can work from home, overall Facebook is dealing with a vastly reduced and remote workforce. It means it is now relying more on its automated systems to review ads, detect and remove violating content and disable accounts.
For advertisers, it said this could result in delayed reviews for ads and commerce listings, an increase in ads being incorrectly disapproved, delayed or reduced appeals and more limited availability of Facebook in-stream ads and lower delivery.
But the effects on publishers are much more severe. In order to protect the brand safety of its platforms, Facebook has temporarily paused monetisation of newly uploaded non-English content/videos.
A Facebook spokesperson revealed the move to Campaign Asia-Pacific. It was enforced on Wednesday (March 18).
"We understand the impact this can have on our content partners’ businesses and are working to resume monetization as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.
Many foreign-language publishers—especially those from low- to middle-income countries—rely heavily on Facebook for distribution and revenue, so the effects of this move could be significant. Especially during a critical time for the legitimate news industry, which has a key role in helping to spread important health and safety messages on COVID-19.
The changes do not impact newly uploaded English-language videos, which will continue to monetise with in-stream ads, though potentially at a lower rate, Facebook warned. This is likely due to a greater availability of English-language reviewers around the world versus native language. Previously reviewed videos that already include in-stream ads continue to monetise, regardless of language.
Facebook's move prioritises brand safety. Which makes sense, given almost all (96%) of its revenue comes from advertisers. But this is also at the detriment of the news industry, undermining its vision to help build a sustainable future for news, through projects such as Facebook Journalism Project.
A Facebook spokesperson said Monday (March 23) that it aims to restore its monetisation service for Instant Articles and in-stream ads "in the coming weeks".
In the meantime, it plans to supplement lost advertising revenue with payouts, the spokesperson added.
"Payouts will attempt to reflect what newly uploaded content may have earned if monetization hadn't been paused due our brand safety operational interruption," the spokesperson said.
Facebook has also shifted certain content review work to full time employees and is focusing on areas including child safety, terrorism, suicide and self-injury, and harmful content related to COVID-19.
It has admitted that it "will inevitably make mistakes" as it looks to cope with the disruption caused by COVID-19.
"We will do our best to address any issues as quickly as we can and continue to provide updates," the social network said in its blog post.
While the news industry is seeing traffic spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is having a tough time monetising. 'Coronavirus' was the second highest blocked term in Integral Ad Science's keyword black lists in February, according to a report, as brands have been enforcing blanket rules to prevent being affiliated with the virus. This kind of blanket keyword blocking is demonitising valuable content and impacting publisher revenues.