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How Facebook Avoids Ad Blockers (dylanpaulus.com)
392 points by ganderzz 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 231 comments





Relatedly, uBlock Origin’s picker has really improved my quality of life on Facebook.

I love Facebook, it’s my only remaining connection to some people, and it’s revived many friendships I thought I’d lost.

However, as one gets on in life, People You May Know can be extremely emotionally impactful. It is a little part of the web UI that brings back the dead, ex partners I still miss, exes who have moved on, and toxic people I had tried to move on from.

It’s really put me through the wringer and being able to block that part of the UI forever is something I’m very glad Facebook, in the role I have gladly given it as being an overseer of my (mostly good) emotions, does not and shouldn’t ever stop me from doing. I hope they realize this.


Your last paragraph is really difficult to parse. I originally thought you liked the feature because it put you through the emotional wringer (in terms of making you work through certain negative emotions), and that it wasn't coddling you.

Thanks for the feedback. I find writing to be very difficult. It’s really helpful to me when people take the time to point out where I’m not clear, especially when it’s constructive feedback, like yours is.

For what it's worth, I thought your meaning was clear. Your third paragraph opens with "however," indicating a contrast to the previous one (in which your love for FB is stated). So I interpreted "emotionally impactful" in a negative rather than positive sense. As a result I didn't have any issues with your last paragraph.

I very much agree with your point of view, and am glad they did (eventually) provide a way to disable the time-hop functionality.

I went through a couple of bad patches and actually don't want to be reminded about that disastrous holiday to vegas I went on with a kinda-sorta-not-really partner, nor do I need reminding of the friendship with a guy who was later convicted of some pretty unpleasant things that none of us (his family included) saw coming.


> I love Facebook

Interesting, what do you think about the backlash against facebook? I guess there could be arguments in favor of facebook, after all.


Facebook is my only real connection to interact with people. I work remote and spend all of my free time with my family but I don't have any real-life friends. So facebook fills a little bit of a void where I can feel like I have a few "friends". I do understand some of the backlash of them sucking up all the world's data and selling it to advertisers.

I love what Facebook brings to my life and relationships, in a purely practical way.

That positive sense of connection with the world far outweighs what (with respect) The Internet suggests I shouldn’t like about the business or their products.


With a billion users, it's obvious that people find Facebook valuable.

I use a Firefox extension called "F.B. Purity". It gives you a lot of control over what you see on Facebook. You can hide "People You May Know", among many other things. https://www.fbpurity.com/

I love that feature. Use it for all the different things that I don't like to see, that distract me etc. Some of the "annoyances" filters are great too to remove most of those cookie notices and other stuff. They're not on by default but easy to switch on in the uBlock origin settings.

I'm glad to read your comment. I I still remember the good times of Facebook, it was a great to see this little website with a lot people connecting with friends and also total strangers, that being said People You May Know is indeed bad because this feature never really took care of your history with the suggested accounts.

Yeah, that one is bad. If someone was recently tagged as your partner and now is not tagged as your friend, you probably don’t want them suggested as an exciting new person you might add.

It's actually pretty simple to block with a recursive filtering algorithm like this:

https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/compare/master...jameshill...

or

https://github.com/tiratatp/facebook_adblock/blob/master/src...

which was roughly based off of my rejected uBlock implementation.

Funny enough I haven't even used facebook in years for the most part, I wrote one of those just to try and make them lose money as I believe I'm doing a public service by slowing their expansion/world domination plans.


Can you explain what the rules to block that actually look like from a user perspective? Or does it require custom js?

Well with the uBlock filter I wrote it looked something like this at the time.

  facebook.com,facebookcorewwwi.onion##div[id^="hyperfeed_story_id_"]:has(div[id^="feed_sub_title_"]:has-visible-text(Sponsored))

I continue to be surprised at how few people have heard of fbpurity[1], a fantastic browser extension that blocks all Facebook ads and lets you filter out specific types of content (links, memories, etc.). It's dramatically improved my Facebook experience; I now see exactly the type of content that I want to see (updates on friend's lives) and nothing more.

[1] https://www.fbpurity.com/


I mean one look at the website kind of tells you why.

The extension could be a lot less intrusive as well - just compare it to uBlock Origin for example. There doesn't need to be an onboarding message. I don't need to see "F.B. Purity hid:" prominently in the middle of my feed - just put that at the bottom right of the screen in gray text or in the extension. Etc.

I'm probably going to uninstall it because it makes FB even uglier.


You could check out Social Fixer. [1] It's been around for several years, is free and offers many features. The creator/maintainer of Social Fixer was also interviewed in Ars Technica.

[1]: https://socialfixer.com/index.html


Unfortunately it's not supported on mobile Firefox.

> I mean one look at the website kind of tells you why.

Yep, that's horrific. I'd immediately back out of that if I landed on the page.



It doesn't do that for me. Must be your settings.

Literally just installed it and used the defaults. "Must be your settings" means the default settings suck.

I prefer to keep my Facebook experience as painful as Mark Zuckerberg intended it to be. (minus notifications of course)

I use it to order group posts by time, so I can use groups as forums. It's nice for that. However, their UI and worse, the defaults are not great so I can see why it's not all that popular.

I have a much better experience of Facebook since a few weeks by adding #stream_pagelet{ display: None } in Stylus for the homepage.

No news feed. No passive content consumption. Still got pages, events, groups, messages etc. Can still use the website in an active/socializing way (looking for specific things, seeing relevant friends' notifications and invitations) but without being caught by the feed each time I come to check my notifications. Think I'll do the same with pretty much every social network. Content feeds are the worst.


Interesting article. I don't blame Facebook for doing whatever they can to properly show ads tho, they provide a "free" service and in exchange serve ads. It's not free to support a company their size and its expected they do everything they can to monetize the site properly.

What do you guys think?


There's some justice to that argument for access to strictly discretionary sites, but Facebook has been so 'successful' that it's now approaching monopolistic power, & is something close to required infrastructure. There are an increasing number of online contacts which literally offer no alternative. I have a few fake facebook accounts I'll use where I literally have no alternative, none of which have real data associated with them.

I personally have a 100% no-corporate-propaganda rule. No logos on anything where avoidable, no ads allowed on my network, etc. If ads slip through ad blockers & I notice an ad somewhere I place the advertised product or company on a 'never buy' list.

No-one other than Facebook has any benefit to gain by forcing ads on me, and frankly in the very unlikely circumstance that people do manage to damage Facebook by circumventing its propaganda platform, so much the better. I'd very much like to see it driven out of business (wild fantasy, I know).


Can you give some specific examples of places with no contact alternatives? Not really grokking this point. Do you mean they (the business) can't be contacted any other way, and facebook is their only presence?

Not if specific means linking to FB! But, yes, there are many local businesses (notably pubs, cafes & some specialty stores) whose only online presence is there. Also some noncommercial stuff - eg in recent bush fires where I live, a local FB group was sometimes the most up to date, if not always the most accurate, source of information. Bizarrely, some XR events are also only publicised on FB.

Look at the developing world where services like internet.org/free basics exist, there are effectively no realistic alternatives for many people.

"do everything they can to monetize"

Except, evidently, allow users to pay money to not be subjected to ads.


Wouldn't work. Spending money on anything puts people on the disposable income demographic which is the exact audience the advertisers want to reach.

It's impossible to reach a workable compromise with the advertising industry. They don't care about our convenience and would place ads under our eyelids if they could get away with it. The truth is we're way past the point of peaceful negotiation with the advertising industry. Better to unconditionally block everything and hope they go bankrupt.

Besides, making users pay money to avoid ads is just insulting. Blockers exist because of the sheer amount of abuse they perpetrate in order to serve their useless noise. People should not have to pay extortion money in order to avoid the abuse. The abuse should simply not happen in the first place.


> Spending money on anything puts people on the disposable income demographic which is the exact audience the advertisers want to reach.

Why do we care what advertisers want? Use regulation to force ad-funded companies to allow people to pay the average revenue per user to opt-out of ads and forbid using the fact they’re paying as a signal to raise prices.


>Why do we care what advertisers want? Use regulation to force ad-funded companies to allow people to...

Why should the government care what users want? How much money are users going to pay for lobbyists to lobby for this regulation you desire? None, of course. But advertisers will happily pay lots of money to lobby congresspeople to keep the laws advertiser-friendly.


There are plenty of abusive ads out there, no doubt. But I wouldn't place Facebook ads in that category. They've actually been extremely restrained compared to a lot of what's out there, including video ads on Instagram.

This is a really good observation. What if we required all ad-based services to make available an equivalent premium offering that showed no ads? I think 99% of people would be stunned at the necessary price and would not pay it anyway, but at least it would be quantified.

This is one of the more important regulations big tech should be subjected to in my opinion.

Let me pay for the services I use, with believable guarantees that my data is not used or sold in any way by the service provider. And regulate the cost to be a reasonable margin over production costs of these services. Hosting my hosting my posts and photos should not be that expensive.


“believable guarantees” lol

If it can be scraped and stored, FB will do it just because. And then apologize if caught, but keep storing it. Because why not? They figure, if it can be stored, someone is doing it. They can take every advantage they can get for their “friends you may know...” and user retention.


If they’re forced to offer a paid tier without ads for a fixed price then their incentive would be to do so in the most profitable way possible by reducing engineering overheads & the cost of storing that data.

Currently they do it because they assume there’s a correlation between the extents to which they violate your privacy and revenue. If the revenue is locked static then this breaks down and the incentives change.


It's not that difficult if there is a will. Just let big tech know that if they break this law, they are going to be fined all the way to bankrupty without hesitation. Once shareholders have lost their money, government as the biggest debtor will sell the company back to market. Couple of rounds of this and even the more stubborn company starts to think differently.

I've seen lots of people say this but like maybe a fraction of people use GSuite like I do (even my phone number is on my GSuite). Big talk from HN usually. Maybe you'll do it but a fraction of people do.

There are no ads in GSuite mail.

So you take the fraction of people who will do that and see if it's worth building. Answer: it's not worth it for practically anyone. It's like building a Bitcoin integration. Everyone "would buy if it would accept Bitcoin" but come on, no one is actually in that narrow space of utility where the difference in buying is adding Bitcoin or not.

If you guys build software maybe you'll see it yourself. Go ahead and try it. Maybe one in five hundred of you will see positive results.


Can you also use google search without ads & tracking?

I do not claim that it would be good business from big tech. Vice versa. That's why they would need to be regulated to offer that. To me, it would not even matter if it was pretty much nobody using that paid service. Just having the option would be important.


> I've seen lots of people say this but like maybe a fraction of people use GSuite like I do (even my phone number is on my GSuite).

GSuite is, quite famously, not equivalent to Google's consumer offerings except for ads. It's an enterprise targeted service with some extra enterprise features but delayed, if any, access to lots of features that go to the consumer versions.

Plus, the consumer versions of many of the pieces in GSuite also don't have ads.

So, it's really not a good barometer for how many people would swap out an ad-infested service for an otherwise-equivalent paid ad-free service.


> I think 99% of people would be stunned at the necessary price and would not pay it anyway

Please back this up with some actual numbers, because they're not as high as you're making people believe they'd be.

I am happily paying for YouTube Premium just because I don't get interrupted by ads. In India, their premium costs less than $2 per month. That price is very justifiable for me (And their ARPU is ~$9/yr btw, so they are making 2 times as much from me than they were before by showing me ads).

According to this site (https://www.statista.com/statistics/234056/facebooks-average...), Facebook had an ARPU of $25 (average, higher per user in US and EU, lower in APAC) per year in 2018. Which is $2 per month. If they promise no ads (and associated tracking), I will pay three times that amount each month.

I think a lot of us on HN would be willing to pay these prices to support the ad-supported services we use if the option was available (and the pricing was reasonable).


not sure this is true. Twitch has Ad Free Turbo, it's about $15/month. Youtube had Red, similar price. Both have customers. The real issue is that with google or FB I don't know that I'm not still being sold all over the place. I only know with Twitch because I work there. Also Youtube has been ratcheting up the ads like crazy lately, and I'm very sure red isn't worth it for me personally.

Well you know, your data is not directly sold. Your data with Google just as part of targeting campaigns ("User is high spender in Google") or equivalent in DoubleClick and Twitch/Amazon is on its way. If you prefer, we don't give to someone the info that IP A.B.C.D but we sell the possibility to target IP A.B.C.D with an ad. It's not "selling" data, but still monetizing it.

Google used to have a service where you set a monthly spend and it would basically bid for ad space, using your money. Instead of displaying the actual ads, it would display an image of your choosing.

It was a pretty great idea and I can't remember what it was called, but it's no longer around as far as I can tell.

Something like that on any ad supported platform would be pretty neat.


Are you referring to this? https://contributor.google.com/v/beta

I've heard it mentioned here and there, seems like it shut down in 2016 and restarted in 2017.


Wouldn't work. Users who are willing to pay to make ads go away are the most valuable audience for advertisers because they have money to spend. Therefore FB would have to charge a TON of money to make up for their billions in lost ads revenue, and nobody would pay that amount anyway.

That doesn't really make sense to me. I'm willing and able to pay for an ad-free experience. I will never ever click on an ad. Ever. I adblock like crazy. I don't see how I'm at all valuable to advertisers. And I suspect I'm nowhere near alone when it comes to people who would pay for no ads.

A quick search claims FB's annualized average ad revenue per user for 2018 was just under $25[0]. If I got value out of FB (I used to be a regular user, but now I just have the account for event invitations and otherwise never check it), I would absolutely pay $25/year to be able to use it without ads.

I suspect FB is near the top end for how much ad revenue they're able to extract from people; I imagine most sites are sub-$1 (certainly sub-$5), and could price subscriptions accordingly.

[0] https://www.statista.com/statistics/234056/facebooks-average...


It's not as simple as charging ad revenue per user.

Only a small subset of users can/would afford to pay $25/yr for Facebook, and these users are arguably the most valuable to advertisers. Therefore by letting them skip ads, FB would lose out on more than $25/yr/user.

It might be profitable at something like $1,000/yr, but who would pay that?


I am willing to pay, but I very strongly despise ads. I'm not sure I have value for advertisers, as I never click on ads. In fact I'm pretty sure advertisers are wasting money on me, and Facebook is quite happy to continue charging them anyway

Not sure about that. I just think that so few people would be willing to pay for it that it's just not worth the effort. Introducing billing brings administrative costs and requires more support. Sure, the HN crowd would maybe pay for ad free facebook, but ads don't seem to be that unpopular for most people.

It introduces far, far less overhead than advertising does though, so I bet they could handle it. Especially if they did $5/mo and essentially doubled the profits from these people.

Most users who are willing to pay to make ads go away are also people who are willing to make ads go away for free. They install uBlock Origin and get rid of most ads from most sites. Why pay $5 to this site and $12 to that site when you can just get an ad-free experience for free, with no ongoing commitments and no recurring transactions?

I think you are over-generalizing. As an anec-datum, I made this point to someone in 2014 (that FB makes about $25/year/person)and I asked if he would pay $25/year. He said he would pay $25/month. And this is definitely not someone who is going to be bothered to learn anything about installing adblockers. He just happens to be reasonably successful in his non-tech field.

Seems to have worked out fine for YouTube (Premium subscriber here).

Perhaps but I'd put money on them still data-mining the shit out of you...

So you're paying to remove ads but tracking and monetisation is still happening.


Same here - YouTube premium is actually a very reasonable priced offering. Its quite enjoyable without ads.

Reddit lets people pay to not see ads. It's $6/mo.

Reddit is not, by all accounts, a profitable company.

I have issues with Facebook and do everything I can to limit my interaction with the platform, but for some situations it's unavoidable - RSVPs to events where there is no alternative, some things relating to births/deaths or marriages, close family members who I've failed to coax off their messaging platform all come to mind. In those situations I'm not going to compromise my own security or privacy.

You can only rsvp over facebook, not via text, email, phone, in person, etc? I've never found there to be no alternative. Hell for most events unless the outlay to throw it was extensive you can just show up, I've never actually had an issue with this, and if they actually want you to show they'll call YOU.

Its amazing when you find out who are actually your friends, and who just likes you at their parties, or associated with their event.

I dislike Facebook but using it means you should agree with how they monetize their business.

The network effects of sites like Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Twitter oftentimes mean taking the ethical stance and "not being part of it" can create serious harm to your business/career/vocation.

There's a reason Instagram Influencer and YouTuber are, despite the sniggering of many people, real jobs that earn tons of money for those skilled in plying the craft.


This is especially true in a lot of developing countries, it's so bad Facebook is effectively considered the internet in many parts of the world. Just look at their ridiculously anti-competitive internet.org/free basics service which is quite dangerous due to the extreme network effect it creates by blocking nearly all smaller 3rd party websites for most users on that service(even though there are some search engines available they will be of little use unless a user can access the pages in the search results).

Every tool available should be used to fight Facebook's world takeover plans, including Ad-blocking aggressively. In cases where it's not practical to entirely avoid Facebook the most ethical option is to aggressively block all their monetization paths so as not to further their dangerous expansion ambitions.


True.

I'm currently in the Philippines and a lot of businesses don't have their own web sites and just have Facebook and Instagram pages.

I just browse Facebook without logging in but it has a huge dialog asking me to log in.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule but most people are not IG Influencers and Youtubers so opting out of these social media services are not as painful.


Gotta love pinoy marketing.

Treats.

Not just a class of food but a brand for gas stations to sell food.


You can pretty easily use any of these sites in a professional only capacity.

But you're still using them, and by virtue of using them are increasing their engagement numbers, which is what they want.

The only winning move is not to play. But they've created an environment where you pretty much have to.


Facebook using my computer to run their code means they should play by my rules. After all, I'm the one paying for the bandwidth, hardware, and any financial or psychological consequences of seeing or interacting with their ads.

Maybe I'd have less of a problem with their ads if they actually took responsibility for what they're pushing and cleaned up any eventual mess (like promoting weight loss scams or outright illegal services).


Users of Facebook are not required to agree with Facebook's business practices, and there is no reason that they should do so. It is perfectly acceptable to use a company's product and criticize how the company operates at the same time.

By using the product, you are incentiviaing the behavior. There is no free lunch. Either you abstain, or you make the problem worse.

The first part is always true, but criticism still serves as a disincentive even when the person doesn't stop using the product.

There are plenty of cases where a person believes it's in their best interest to use a product, yet still criticizes it because some aspects of the product are hostile to them. It would be most effective to stop using the product, but sometimes, the criticism alone makes a difference.

I disagree with the parent comment's statement (that a person should agree with the company's practices if the person uses their product). Disagreeing with hostile practices is better than agreeing to them, even if the person continues to use the product.


I don’t blame Facebook for trying insist you see ads. I do blame them for dirty dark patterns like blocking copy and paste in calendar events so that you can’t copy them to an external service.

The web has, since the very beginning I think, had the notion of public and private resources, where access to private resources requires authentication. I view facebook as an almost entirely private resource, protected by a user name, password, and terms of use.

So, they can do what they want within the law, so far as I care. I only get annoyed when people engage in hostile behaviour on the public internet - resources that we're meant to freely read, share links to, or index, or process in whatever way we choose.

As far as I can tell, facebook do quite a good job of keeping their walled garden well controlled and secure. I barely see anything of their website, but others are willing to jump through hoops just to be in there (e.g. sending in copies of passports). You know, these people will put up with quite a lot of abuse.


I think they should provide an option to perhaps pay them directly to opt-out of ads. If you choose not to pay but still use their service for free then they must do what they must to monetize.

I agree. If you are using their platform, then you have to abide to their terms of use.

I don't use Facebook for this reason.


What if the company does not make it clear what the terms of use are - wich covers pretty much 99.99% of face book users.

They trick you - you trick-em back.


Not using Facebook is the best way to avoid Facebook ads, but Facebook's terms of service don't forbid ad blocking.

https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms


Ads are the most benign thing FB does. If that was the only issue, nobody would care.

So you're basically against ad blockers.

You can be in favor of both sides of this argument, I would say I am. I believe in my right to modify what's running on my computer and network, including things like installing adblocker extensions and pi-hole and so on. But I also believe that no organization is obligated to serve their data to me in a way that makes it easy to block those ads.

They are wasting CPU hours and man hours on obfuscation features rather than real value to the end user. But nothing is really wrong with that, it's just a bit silly. If they think it makes them more profit overall than actually enhancing Facebook, they can take that bet. (I think it's the wrong bet, but they can still take it)


That's basically my attitude too, and I'd consider myself one of the more pro-adblocker advocates.

I see the internet as a bunch of servers talking to each other. Some make requests to others, some respond to those requests by sending content.

You can block me, you can choose to not send or respond data to my requests, and you can send your website/content in some form that's better suited to Perl golf or the obfuscated C contest. That's your prerogative.

On my end, I get to decide who I send my requests to, how I spend my time and attention, and what I do on my machine with incoming requests and data.

Make your site bad enough, and I (and others) will stop going, and eventually you'll likely sow the seeds of your own destruction (as people move away and create competition), but fundamentally that's your call to make.

Just like its mine to ignore you or your requests that I talk to your affiliated servers, edit and filter the content once it's on my machine/infrastructure, and not pay attention to the nonsense you send.


Personally I would like an ad blocker that only blocks annoying ads, or ads that contain malware. I would also be willing to pay a monthly subscription for an adblock service, where the subscription gets divvied out to the sites I visit.

In fact, I can think of how this could work on a large scale. A site can sign up to the adblock service to receive a prorated portion of revenues that individual subscribers pay in, and subscribers have a browser button where they can rate the site (thumbs up, neutral, or thumbs down) for usefulness. That rating can then be fed into a trainer for a search engine so that search results are tuned to that user's preferences (along with a user profile that gets automatically built up, or that a user can adjust themselves). For extra bonus points, the user can get a 10% discount on the service for agreeing to allow the adblock service to monetize that data (and agreeing to their data sharing policy) -- otherwise that data is used only to influence search results.

BTW, for years I didn't bother with an ad blocker until I started getting repeatedly hit with malware served up by the ad networks. For that same reason I don't bother with an ad blocker on my phone, because so far I haven't gotten hit with ad-delivered malware on my phone or tablet yet.


ad nauseum Firefox clicks ads already, to pay the person advertising. and you never see them. it's great in mobile too

If a business chooses how they make money to survive, can you just say "I don't like how you make money so I'll just get everything for free"?

If you don't like how a company uses ads (regular, spammy, deceptive), no better way than tell them than by not giving them any traffic at all.


Users are allowed to control how they view content on their own computer. Facebook has chosen to give the content out for free and users may choose to render the content however they wish.

Facebook is free to charge for the service.


"Facebook has chosen to give the content out for free".

No, it's not free. Facebook makes money off data from its users.


The "free" in this case is the fact that they have not charged any fee to obtain the data.

Let me paraphrase your statement then

""Facebook has chosen to give the content out for free BY SERVING ADS".


And the user is in no way obligated to look at the ads. If I start a business giving away things for free expecting the users to pay me back later but in no way requiring them to and it doesn't work out then thats just a bad business model.

The internet/web is USED by businesses.

The internet/web is not FOR businesses.

Perhaps that's the fundamental difference in perspective about who's responsibility it is to make allowances for who serves/receives content...


In this case, yes, yes you can. Although note that the value flows in the other direction. We're getting Facebook content (worthless), they're getting our attention (valuable).

I always wonder about the person that is responsible for designing these kind of schemes. What is their daily job like? What are they thinking about their work? It might even be fun because you are essentially competing against ad-blockers in cleverness.

It definitely sounds fun to me. You're engaged in a very game like experience and getting paid for it.

It’s like being a poker player, but you probably get paid more.

At least poker doesn't have a negative effect on society, given you're only playing against people who opt-in by playing the game.

This in comparison is fighting against people who just want a bit of peace and less sewage being dumped in their Facebook timeline.


Facebook has a negative effect on society according to whom? How does a tool that allows you to connect to other people have a "negative effect on society"?

People get lynched and killed every day in my country (India) because of hate-speech on Facebook, not to mention all the fake news being spread via WhatsApp.

If Facebook were to disappear tomorrow, it would be a net positive for the world.


Being on Facebook is opt-in. I do use FB Messenger for talking to relatives, but that's about all.

It’s not opt-in when the cancer has contaminated a significant chunk of the web with like buttons and other stalking scripts and when the majority of the world is using it as its preferred communication platform, meaning opting out is inconvenient.

It's not opt-in because opting out is inconvenient?

"Do not use the Internet. Do not use phones. Do not use bank accounts. Do not travel by plane. Do not enter public spaces. Do not show your face.

Otherwise you accept our Terms of Service.

Thank you for trusting us."

QuantumRoar (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12958035)


What happens when screen readers can't identify things properly? Can Facebook be sued for not providing proper accessibility, given that their site is deemed to be essential by many?

If screen readers can identify something as an advertisement, then so should ad blockers be able to. If not... then aren't we depriving the blind and the sight challenged from valuable advertising equality?


I think you're kind of misunderstanding how screen readers work. You're clearly seeing the "Sponsored" text on the screen, and so is the screen reader. It's not that the text isn't there, it's just that it's put there in a way that is nearly impossible to target with CSS-based ad blocking. That's all.

>It's not that the text isn't there, it's just that it's put there in a way that is nearly impossible to target with CSS-based ad blocking.

I'm confused too, then.

If the screen-reader can see the word "sponsored" easily, why can't any other code? What is the difference between how a screen reader finds "sponsored" vs an ad-blocker?


A screen reader is looking at the text as it is rendered. Note that I said CSS-based ad blocking, which is really what the blog post was about. A more advanced ad blocker could certainly find the "Sponsored" text and hide the ad.

How I am avoiding Facebook. Took their ASN, scraped ripe (https://stat.ripe.net/widget/routing-history#w.resource=AS32...) and dynamically updating firewall rules to block them for my whole network. And I am so sorry google is having cloud "hosting" (AS15562) as I would love to do the same for them.

  span[data-content="S"]
    + span[data-content="p"]
    + span[data-content="o"]
    + span[data-content="n"]
    + span[data-content="s"]
    + span[data-content="o"]
    + span[data-content="r"]
    + span[data-content="e"]
    + span[data-content="d"] {
    display: none;
  }
This only hides the "d", right? You generally can't hide a higher-level element based on drill-down selectors, so pure CSS wouldn't be enough. But of course, finding the appropriate parent by scripting would be trivial from here.

Apart of that, why can't one just accumulate all visible text by filtering out all `display: none` elements? Of course, this could be attacked again by e.g. shrinking the "noise" characters to width 0.


Yeah, I always have to write userscripts to get access to getElementsBy(TagName,Id,etc) and then call .parentNode().parentNode()... to reach the ancestor I want to remove.

Of course the downside of userscripts compared to uBlock rules is that they take time to run, so you end up seeing the ads briefly before they are erased, which is annoying. So then I run the scripts prior to page-load to insert CSS rules to hide all elements that might be ads, let the page load, filter it, and then override the older CSS rules. It's quite a hassle, really.

What I'm saying is, :parent selectors in CSS would be greatly appreciated.


How does this impact assistive technologies? Are Facebook users using screen readers left unaware of what's an ad and what's not?

Interesting question! FaceBook Alt Text feature is an after thought at best, so I imagine they never thought about it.

Maybe they detect screen readers via the user agent or something and serve up a more accessible version?

I actually don't mind Facebook ads. If I'm on Facebook already, there's no additional javascript loading and hogging my browser with dozens of megabytes of tracking scripts. From performance point of view, browsing FB is a better experience than your average web site these days.

To be fair the ads tend to be better than the mountain of shit that my elderly relatives share on there. Then again I very, very rarely visit the site in the first place.

Ads don't just slow down the browser, they also distract users and waste their time. The vast majority of people who use ad blockers don't want to see any ads at all.

Facebook also tracks a variety of metrics related to their ads, and the data collection is implemented through JavaScript or other methods of triggering web requests. These methods do impact performance.

https://www.facebook.com/business/help/735720159834389

https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/news/story/facebook-con...


I do mind. And I specifically mind the amount of engineering they put into making sure you can't not see them. It's not like you can really opt to not use facebook in one way or another, if you have an account with them or not.

What really makes me sad is that some presumably quite talented engineer spent time thinking this up and coding it.

Can you explain what is wrong with engineers working on problems like these?

As I see this, it allows businesses to connect with more people, therefore being more profitable, therefore making economy grow in general.

I just don't understand this hate towards developers who work for companies like FB and Google and whose job is focusing on increasing ad engagement. In my opinion, they definitely provide a hugely positive effect on economy (unless you think capitalism / consumerism is evil / wrong or whatever, which is another topic).


When I visit https://www.facebook.com/careers/ the first things it says are "Do the Most Meaningful Work of Your Career, [...] We design products and deliver services that bring the world closer together - one connection at a time [...] We encourage our people to be bold and solve the problems they care most about. [...] Together, we help others build stronger communities"

Does working on anti-ad-blocking seem like that to you?

To me, if I was promised "the most meaningful work of my career" then I was assigned to anti-ad-blocking I wouldn't feel my Facebook career was delivering on that promise.


Yeah, that sounds a bit like being promised a research job in curing cancer, but then being put on a team that researches how to weaponize ebola for that customer in North Korea...

That wasn't my point. And actually I am not sure what are you trying to say with your reply cause it's not related to what I was saying. My point was that those engineers working on those problems have a good impact on economy as a whole. Efficient engaging ads are great for everyone, it's great for growth.

> To me, if I was promised "the most meaningful work of my career" then I was assigned to anti-ad-blocking I wouldn't feel my Facebook career was delivering on that promise.

Then you could easily just quit.


I don't use Facebook, but I imagine the easiest way of blocking the ads is like most other websites - to block the connection to the ad-server(s), no? That's how uMatrix operates and, in my opinion, that works exceptionally well. It blocks known domains that are ad-servers and that alone blocks damn near everything because of the way ads are served on nearly every single website.

In fact it works so well that pretty much the only time I've noticed ads has been when I look at uMatrix and I see there aren't direct user connections to the ad servers. For those pages, it looks like the site itself is acting as a middle man and pulling the ads and inserting into the HTML via scripting. But that's a lot more work for developers to do, as well as more bandwidth and overhead. I don't know if those sites are able to tailor ads to individual users when they do this - they would need some sort of identification to pass to the ad server so the ads on those sites might be generic, not sure.

But that's my observation, FWIW.


Don't they host their own ads? Something I wish more websites would do instead of letting ad networks stomp all over the page with whatever Javascript/Flash/viruses they want.

It's not surprising that Facebook serves its own ads, considering that it's one of the top 2 digital ad networks by revenue in the US. Google does the same for its sites.

Facebook and Google have a duopoly on the online ad market, with a combined 60.9% market share. Amazon is #3 with just 7.6%.

https://www.emarketer.com/content/facebook-google-duopoly-wo...


The main news feed is such a toxic space anyway so I just blocked it in general with this uBlock filter:

www.facebook.com##div[id^="feed_stream_"] > div


Commenting about some of the comments . . .

Yes, ads are what keeps facebook and other websites running, but there's a blurred line that crosses from offering content for users to offering users as product. To attract readers, they provide content that has value. Then they do everything in their power to distract you from what you came for. When the distraction is too overpowering and irritating many people will complain and leave. It doesn't necessarily mean that we don't understand the money model; it's that we obviously are not going on the internet to see ads that take primacy over our online experience.

The line may be blurred, but facebook users are not facebook's customers; they are the product. Facebook offers this product to the businesses that pay for access. Inasmuch as facebook focuses on an engaging user experience, it's only to ensure that they maintain their product so businesses keep buying it. It's interesting how this product maintenance has evolved: like news or reality shows or contest shows, the aim is to introduce tension, and in the case of news topics, anger, which oddly keeps people coming back for more. The aim of providing an engaging user experience has morphed into providing an addictive user experience. And like most addictions, what started out as an enjoyable pleasure transforms into something that controls and destroys us to varying degrees.


I don't mind ads. I revolt against tracking.

Yes. This is horrible behavior from Facebook. I had a similar problem finding a working extension that blocks fbclk id. Well, I found one, but I am not sure I would want to share it, because the facebook engineering team may go after it as well.

This also renders nil the argument about "don't use the product if you don't like their (ad) practices". Tracking across websites without consent is illegal in most of Europe, yet they do it extensively.


Devils Advocate... why is it horrible behaviour from Facebook? It's their product which needs to be paid for by Ads and they need to prevent Ad Blockers from stopping these from being served. So in their defence - any technical work around is fair on their part.

Nobody forbids them to put ads. However, there are laws (not even talking moral here). If you explicitly download a tracking blocking extension, you want to opt out of tracking, which is required by law that they provide.

What I am saying is that not only they track you, but they explicitly break the top extensions that fix this. From this point of view, I have no regret for any of their ads being blocked.


Sounds like if CSS could allow matching by patterns, it could still block it out? I.e. something regex / wildcard like? Though performance probably would suffer.

More advanced ad blocker can probably use some AI, that could be trained with user's hints about what is an ad. Or it can use some OCR for that purpose. If you can recognize that it's labeled "Sponsored", so can ad blocker potentially.


It's tricky even for Javascript.

Not really, you just need a recursive filtering algorithm such as this:

https://github.com/tiratatp/facebook_adblock/blob/master/src...


To me this is very simple, if someone installs an ad or tracking blocker then they are explicitly withdrawing consent, there is absolutely no ambiguity about it. Doing it anyway or de-anonymising them or anything else is impossible to do without equally explicitly knowing that you are violating consent. And every Facebook employee must know it.

You gave consent to see ads when you signed up. Why would the presence of an ad blocker withdraw that consent?

Because GDPR states that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and that provision of services can not be tied to consent. That’s the law here in Wales.

GDPR requires consent for the processing of the personal data. Displaying an ad per se is not regulated by GDPR, and does not require consent. Though personalization of this advertisement requires processing of the PII, and thus it is supposed to be regulated.

Facebook UI is full of dark patterns, but it is possible to withdraw consent through settings: www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/


I assume this problem is the same reason why accessibility programs suck?

Given the billions that could be saved by making programs that interpret web sites rather than programmers learning and writing for accessibility I'd hope it's because it's impossibly hard, not because no one will create it.

I'd also help with testing......


Question for anyone in the know: Is this allowed, from an accessibility point of view? I'm just wondering how someone with a screen reader would know it's an ad? (Or are screenreaders more advanced than I think, and would actually be able to read out 'sponsored')?

AFAIK it's not about the screenreader, but about the browser. The browser knows these aren't visible, so I don't expect it would have any reason to report them to the accessibility interface (IAccessible et al.).

I've put down the steps to kill all the junk out. “Customize your Facebook Experience” by Hirako2000 https://link.medium.com/6q6LZgGV61

It reminds me of a lightning talk I gave at ReactConf some time ago :)

Basically forward-shuffling the component tree to produce HTML that will be really hard to match using CSS Selectors usually found in adblockers and other DOM-targeting scripts.

Code: https://github.com/elierotenberg/react-armor

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n63XXHY4A7I


For more crazy adblocker avoidance solutions found in the wild, check this presentation from JSConfEU 2019 from an ABP employee:

https://2019.jsconf.eu/shwetank-dixit/block-unblock-block-ho...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vk9bPDaZELQ


I wrote a similar article some time ago with a look at how to detect them and remove them from the DOM. It was mostly for didactic reasons.

https://medium.com/hackernoon/how-i-get-rid-of-the-new-spons...

but my approach was to use Javascript instead of CSS


Not only the ads. I once recreate the feed for a university project. Just take a look at the sources. Every element is completely obscured, every class and id is just long random strings.

Nice breakdown. If I open facebook I can see the 'sponsored' as plain text right there in the developer tools... It might make a difference that I'm using chrome in Dutch?

Why can't AI solve this problem for us. It should be fairly simple now to make a bot "read" words just like us instead of using CSS/HTML/JS to block ads.

I wrote a greasemonkey script that runs every 250ms and blocks these. It might be hard with CSS but it's (almost) trivial with a spot of JS

https://socialfixer.com

But is not as good anymore as it used to be


How the narrative that content blockers are a non threat has fallen.

Don't let Facebook get away with this!

I have seen a similar technique used to build paywalls for research papers that display obfuscated "previews" of the article you clicked on beneath the "pay for access" banner

just stop using facebook. no more ads.

Or you can use Pi-hole and remove any and all ads :)

Uh, no. Pi-hole is a DNS-based ad blocker, while the ads we are talking about are served by first party.

Just block all of facebook and their CDNs. Problem solved.

Sure, that also kills facebook access, so two birds with one stone!


Yes, and for the same reason YouTube ads will slip through Pi-Hole (at least without some customisation).

I'm surprised I haven't seen a single comment say what ought to be the obvious: the easiest way to never see Facebook ads is to just not use Facebook.

I should hope I'm preaching to the choir, I'm sure, but... quitting really isn't as hard as you tell yourself it is.

It's not as essential as you think it is.


I'd like to add that it is not necessary to leave Facebook to not use Facebook. I have a FB account and I'll never close it, because I like having my username on all online services I might use if once. That being said I only have it logged in at a home desktop, not my phone, not any work machine. I use it for like two minutes weekly, one to check a few specialty groups I'm a lurker in and two to co-admin a page with a group of my friends where I once helped promote a post because the UX of doing so is too shitty for normal people wanting to bother navigating it. Facebook has had no effect on my mental health and it has a marginal benefit of being a kinda up to date contact book, even if it is getting worse at that. But that's it. You can have a Facebook account and only use it when it benefits you and not Facebook.

Edit: Oh and I use it in a Firefox Facebook container so I'm not at all worried about it tracking me online.


> You can have a Facebook account and only use it when it benefits you and not Facebook.

I used to think so too, but then I realized that Facebook would let people add me to group chats or something without my knowledge and that these people would then blindly assume that I had read the messages in those chat groups. I find that "I have a Facebook account but I almost never log in" tends to get misunderstood, whereas "I no longer have a Facebook account" gets the message across quite clearly.


This is what finally pushed me to delete my Facebook account too. Many people only use Facebook to communicate even if they have my phone number. So, they'd send me something on Facebook and expect me to read it there. Sometimes they'd even get angry if I didn't despite me telling them many times that I don't login to Facebook. I mostly don't hear from those people anymore and I'm fine with that.

This exact issue was the final nail in the coffin for me with Facebook. I was expected to use it as a primary means of communication and I refused. The hard part is, the people I don't hear from anymore are family.

>Oh and I use it in a Firefox Facebook container so I'm not at all worried about it tracking me online.

You think that once you log in to FB in a container -- Facebook can't track you? Those container details are now appendage to your online fingerprint as far as Facebook are concerned.

Containers only work if you don't actually log in to such services. The only sure way for FB to not track you is to not use FB at all -- even then it requires other steps too as they'll be building a shadow profile on you.


You're of course correct, they can still see that I'm a container user because they can only even see me accessing Facebook directly, but fail to see any activity from other pages loading the like buttons and their other tracking crap. So that's a data point to them. Another is that I've disabled the "app platform" or whatever they call it in my profile settings before, so I didn't see their online tentacles to being with and keeping them contained is just to keep them honest (the "do not use app platform" toggle is similar to "do not track" in this regard). But they can't do much with the profile they build on me: they know I'm a container using, ad-blocking, Facebook-barely-using, well-off (I participate in a group about an expensive hobby) dude who they failed to generate a single click off in their entire lifetime. That's not-being-tracked enough for me. Getting protection from tracking beyond that is not IMO scalably solvable using techological means and crosses over to the regulatory realm.

I'll admit I don't fully understand how those containers work, but I assumed it would allow me to have different fingerprints for different scumbags so that it's harder to cross-correlate.

Is that naive?


Although you're not a heavy Facebook user, you still use it weekly. People who don't want to use Facebook at all would benefit from deleting their accounts, because leaving Facebook adds a hurdle that discourages them from returning to Facebook.

Well, sure, but there's a difference between using Facebook heavily and using Facebook occasionally. It's not a binary. Indeed, you can even use Facebook once in a blue moon. For instance, you can log out on all your devices and set your password to something you've autogenerated but you haven't saved so you have to go through the "forgot password" process.

Facebook wants to be addictive, but it's okay and possible to use it once every two or three months so you can add your great aunt and post holiday photos (so people know you're safe). And by using Facebook less, it takes away some of Mark Zuckerberg's power over you and our society.


I used to do this as well until it got to the point where family members would get upset if I didn't like or post a comment on something they posted. I left facebook because it was only a negative in my life.

I never liked facebook so I never really used it, deleted my account 3 years ago. I always was (and still am) against their practices and business model.

I have a hobby which is growing carnivorous plants and last year I started a small side business selling my extra plants. The entire community is now on facebook (before that it was mostly forums) and I had to reopen an account to be part of it.

Sadly it is essential for some people. Not facebook itself, but the fact that it is the main social network makes it essential if you want to be a part of some communities. I hate that I have to use Facebook, but I don't have the choice.

It opened so many more opportunities for me than when I wasn't using it, it has really been surreal and I've never felt more engaged and happy in my life. I wouldn't credit facebook for it because in the end, it's the people on it that brings me happyness, but there's no way I would have interacted with them without it.

Of course if you don't have any hobbies/business that depends on it, deleting Facebook is indeed the way to go, but for a lot of people it's not such a black or white thing


Its funny, I have a few hobbies that have settled on fb as the central hub of discussion. Yet, a single friendship irl still yeilds me more info. If the caliber of person guiding my hobby feels facebook is the best forum, I might already be ahead of the pack.

Stop making excuses for sidlining your personal integrity, you are now just another part of the problem.


I think Facebook has been very successful at instilling FOMO in people. People are paralyzed by the fear that they will miss out on this or that if they leave, which is great for their retention.

I quit using Facebook close to 10 years ago, yet I still have a robust social life, communicate regularly with friends and family, participate in hobbies (even ones who unfortunately moved their community to FB) and do all of the above without the unhealthy “like-obsessed” feedback loops. It’s great!

But when you tell people it’s possible to live without Facebook, all you get are lame excuses about why their case is special and they couldn’t possibly do it themselves!


Cannot agree more. Quit Facebook and its sister service completely (talking about WhatsApp; never really got around to using Instagram) after the 'View As' feature exploit last year that led to 50 mil user accounts' data being exposed [0], and I must say, I've never felt more calmer, tranquil or better, mental health wise.

I feel our brains could do much better with a little less of constant bombardment of highlight-reel version of other people's lives. The psychological literature on the negative impacts of social media usage is only ballooning by the day, and there's never been a better time to quit Facebook.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/technology/facebook-hack-...


Quitting Facebook itself would help with what you are saying, but I am curious what you replaced WhatsApp/Messenger with.

For example, I have good friends in other countries, and sending pictures and short texts is one of the best ways to stay in contact. We do talk over the phone occasionally, but not having a simple way to send pictures or links would pull us much further apart.

Sure, email could be an option, but WhatsApp is just so much more convenient.


From before the Facebook acquisition WhatsApp had gotten really embedded in The Netherlands (and the rest of Europe?) as a free replacement for paid SMS service. Not only because it was free but also more convenient for sending long messages, pictures, etc. compared to the MMS hellhole.

I've been trying to get people on Signal but it's a struggle especially for older people used to WhatsApp. For a lot of them WhatsApp → Signal is a big step even though (for us) the apps are pretty much similar.


What I was curious about with GP's comment was more on the aspect of social/psychological effects of social media. I know Signal/Telegram/others could be used as a 1:1 replacement of WA/Messenger for the purpose of avoiding Facebook Inc.

I was wondering if they found some other strategy to keep in contact with their close ones without using messaging in the first place, not replacing Facebook services with some other service.


Agree. Outside the small tech bubble around me, the vast majority of people use WhatsApp for all their messaging communication.

Threema. You pay a certain modest sum and get a service. A terribly old-fashioned business model it seems... (but works for me).

Are all of your friends on it? I don't know anyone running it so it wouldn't work for me. Everyone I know is either on Messenger or Whatsapp. One friend is on Telegram, but he's also on Whatsapp.

Your friends also definitely have an email and a phone number since those are required to use Facebook.

Threema's mobile clients are closed source, while Signal and Riot are both open source and free of charge.

Telegram might be convenient, it's a middle ground between bloated Facebook things and "geeky" apps like Signal (I don't dislike it, but it's just unpopular).

I guess it depends where you are. In central europe many people have Signal and its growing (i have 40 signal contacts).

Also i dont agree at all that its more geeky. If you don't think about technical backround Signal is ux wise simpler app.


Signal or Matrix (using the Riot client, for instance).

Signal or Telegram

Signal

discord is really advanced Iove it you can do group video chat

Amen to this. I stopped using Facebook due to the same reason. If anything, my quality of life has gone up since then.

Things I pragmatically need Facebook (including Messenger) for:

- My martial arts classes post updates there

- So does the community garden I help out at

- Keeping up with family news, and directly talking to family

- Keeping up with what's happening to my friends in the USA or other far flung places

- Access to topical news that matches my political beliefs rather than being heavily centrist-biased and ignoring all the important stuff

- Monitoring political campaigns and issue campaigns

And honestly, good luck finding all that anywhere else.


That reads to me like "I like the Facebook service and so I use it". Of course if you want to use Facebook then quitting Facebook isn't practical.

I'd like it better with less evil.

That's a universal platitude that could be applied to any profit-seeking company. At the end of the day you either regard Facebook as so abhorrent that you will refuse to use their services or not, but you definitely don't need to use them.

And that's lazy deference to an inevitability that isn't inevitable. It's a cultural choice, to tolerate evil of that sort.

I have made no defense. IMO, bargaining on the axis of moral flexibility to maintain the convenience of using a service you regard as evil is explicit "toleration" of said evil.

Create bookmarks directly to those pages and ignore the news feed.

Missing the bit where I want the news feed.

Exactly. The real reason why FB is evil is not because it makes a ton of money from data that you willingly provide it, its simply because of what it is - a platform that takes advantage of a human weakness - vanity, to keep you "engaged". It is an addiction that Zuck sells, pretty sure he knows it. The privacy bit is only a red herring and what should be the least of user's concerns. Just stop "using".

I think you have summarized my thoughts exactly on this. In their quest for increasing "engagement", they have unleashed a monster.

127.0.0.1 connect.facebook.net

127.0.0.1 graph.facebook.com

127.0.0.1 staticxx.facebook.com

127.0.0.1 api.facebook.com

127.0.0.1 www.facebook.com

127.0.0.1 an.facebook.com


I typically use 0.0.0.0 rather than 127.0.0.1, then it's not even reachable.

Genuine question, it can't possibly be reachable on 127 anyway can it?

Put another way, what's the difference between 0 and 127 here? What makes it safer? TIA


Not OP but read about it on this hosts config [0].

From that page:

> We prefer to use 0.0.0.0, which is defined as a non-routable meta-address used to designate an invalid, unknown, or non applicable target.

> Using 0.0.0.0 is empirically faster, possibly because there's no wait for a timeout resolution. It also does not interfere with a web server that may be running on the local PC.

[0] https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts


For 127.0.0.1 it will try to connect and fail, either right away or on timeout depending on the on-box firewall setup.

For 0.0.0.0 it won't even try to connect (or fail instantly depending on how you look at it).


I usually have a web server running on posts 80 and 443 on my local machine. Using 127.0.0.1 will make requests to Facebook end up there, which is not necessarily what you want.

Although I share hour feelings, is not that easy either. I have family all over the world, and facebook is the best way to get communicated with them.

Same thought, same choir. Stopped feeding their fidget spinner profit engine years ago. Have more interesting things to spend time on these days (like reading HN).

Easiest way to quit was to add "facebook.com" to my LAN's pihole blacklist and delete their (tracking) app from my phone. The account is still there to reserve my name but it has no other real data.


I suspected I'd enter the comments and see this sort of comment. I don't feel like the author is telling us how to block ads on facebook - they are just exploring the techniques that facebook use to sidestep ad-blockers

>It's not as essential as you think it is.

It is if you are travelling often, especially in non-western countries.

Rent in local Facebook groups is sometimes 2-3 times cheaper than AirBnB and alike, as well as large expat communities.


I want to second this. I never had an account and I've seen the deterioration of conversations among my friends from being about reconnecting positive experiences to complaints of what someone says on there all the time. Unfriending their relatives with racist rants. All the cake news.

They don't realize the impact it's having on their lives. Facebook has become a justification to bring hate into our personal conversations. Their crazy aunt says something on there so they believe this makes it a public conversation, but I have no idea about that.

Their debates are personal conversations had in public. Facebook has made the problems of talking about class, religion, race and politics inescapable.

There's a reason we avoid those topics at holiday gatherings and business functions. They divide us and cause psychological injury.

Fb has capitalized on this fury and drives profit from anger, dispute, hate and all these other emotions we don't want to have. These are the conversations that don't end and people want to win. They're live long disagreements where people won't change their mind and find equally violating people to fuel their rage and others to direct it at.

These didn't use to be everyday conversations. Fb makes it easy to intact with those you disagree with violently and often. People you'd choose to avoid in real life but new can't because fb makes more money of pitting those two divergent personalities together and continually antagonizing them.

It's hurting their mental health to be surrounded constantly by dissenting voices trekking then they are wrong for whatever reason.

You're wrong. You're wrong. You're a bad person because you believe that. You're inconsequential. Someone said this thing about you.

It's ruining people and I don't know how to get that awareness through to them. They're telling me more often they wished they'd just never gone on there and I say don't go back. Fb is like the abusive spouse they are addicted to.

How do we save our friends and family from that abuse? How do we help them escape? I'm so sad for them and I feel helpless to save them from the peril that is so obvious from the outside.


I’m involved in a couple of IRL groups where Facebook is the only way events get announced. I don’t think there’s a good way to delete Facebook and still learn about those events.

It may be the easiest way but it's not that easy for people hooked on it.

I still have an account but I rarely log in (perhaps couple of times per year and when I do it's with Firefox Containers and with cookies cleared after log out plus I block third-party connections from Facebook and its domains), but Facebook is more than Facebook.

A lot of people I know spend way more time on Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger then they do on Facebook itself so it will be difficult for them to not use it.


"It's not as essential as you think it is."

I'm not able to avoid it. Since I can't make extended family members use something else, it's a source for family news. My family is large, both on my side and my spouse's, so FB isn't trivial to replace.

Something that could scrape and mirror a curated "family news" would be cool. But given the rate of change at FB, it would be hopelessly brittle.


>Since I can't make extended family members use something else, it's a source for family news.

How did your family accomplish this 10 years ago? How valuable is the family news if you need it curated?


"How did your family accomplish this 10 years ago?"

I don't see how that matters. I'm not going to be successful convincing 100+ people flung across the country to go back to how we used to do things. They like Facebook, and likely aren't interested in their crazy uncle's rant about Facebook. They post their news there, and not anywhere else.

"How valuable is the family news if you need it curated"

FB is my source for things like "who graduated", "who is pregnant", "who got married", "who got a new job", "how that horse on cousin Fred's ranch is doing" and so on. I like to know these things.

By "curated", I mean something like a scraper that could pull out posts from family people and put it somewhere so I wouldn't need to log into Facebook and get exposed to a bunch of other stuff I don't want to see...and the pervasive tracking. I also mentioned it's probably not practical.


I'm anticipating a transition from filtering to scrapping. I've already switched to "reader mode" and RSS feeds as much as possible. Mostly for ad avoidance and battery guarding.

I'm also anticipating applying differential debugging techniques to automatically compile ad blocking filter lists. View the top X sites via multiple personas, diff the content, anything static is more likely not ads.


I do find it funny that so many on HN seem to wear this “I never use Facebook” as some sort of badge of honor.

Yep...Not on their product.

Although this is fascinating, the amount of attack/defense in our browser just trying to put a block of ad in front of you and the CPU cycles that are wasted, I don't think it apply to my case.


The same can be said of alcohol, but life is lived to its fullest when practicing moderation on many fronts :)

> It's not as essential as you think it is.

Please don't tell people you don't even know what their lives are like


Except your not actually blocking Facebook ads are you?

And what do you do with the 100.000.000 websites using Facebook logins, SDK, like button etc.? I think you need to go a bit further than just not using it. You need to block the entire IP range and DNS to completely block them.

There are filter lists for ad blockers that can block Facebook's third-party web requests.

Fanboy's Annoyance List and Anti-Facebook List: https://www.fanboy.co.nz/

Fanboy's Annoyance List (source): https://easylist-downloads.adblockplus.org/fanboy-annoyance....

Fanboy's Anti-Facebook List (source): https://fanboy.co.nz/fanboy-antifacebook.txt

AdGuard Social Media filter (source): https://filters.adtidy.org/extension/chromium/filters/4.txt

All of these work with uBlock Origin.


Thanks, I usually use PiHole with the lists merged into one and just block it at the DNS level.

A year ago, I was on Facebook constantly. At one point, I realized that I could do better things with the time wasted there so I installed News Feed Eradicator (I learned about it in a podcast. I think a Peter Attia podcast, but I could be wrong). Anyway, now Facebook is alien to me. I still have it on my laptop, and if I need to search something of for someone,I can use Facebook. But I don't have access to scrolling. I don't have a wall anymore. lol. I don't have the app on my phone though. I feel super.

Current tech available is already well beyond this, but simply needs to be properly applied.

Facebook Ads look like ads, by design. Shift gears to IMAGE RECOGNITION and success will follow.


I cannot understand the people who believe it’s their absolute right to use an ad blocker (a position I agree with) but then don’t believe it’s the site’s absolute right to decide whether or not they will serve you content.

There seems to be a blackjack analogy here. Don’t let the boss catch on!



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