Op-Ed: Changes To Facebooks Paid Advertising System Since The ‘Fake News’ Crackdowns

In my limited experience working as a news editor, some of my proudest accomplishments have been getting two different Facebook Pages verified during the full height of Facebook’s Fake News crackdowns in 2017 and 3 domains indexed for inclusion into the Google News during the same period of time they were blacklisting different news websites all around the world. While I have since deleted these pages and platforms offline, now that I’m beginning a new journey and have created Rogue Media Labs, I can’t help but notice how much things have changed in such a short time.

When I first founded Alternative Medi4 in July of 2016 I was angry, and perhaps a little arrogant. I had around $4,000 saved up and had every intention of using every last dime of it to create the best news platform I knew how – which is exactly what I did. In fact, by March 2018 I had managed to completely bankrupt myself and appropriately enough, switched the domain over to Bankrupt Medi4 one last time before completely shutting the site down for good. Despite my failures however, there were several takeaways I got from the experience that continue to help me on through today. For the purposes of this article, I would briefly like to discuss my experience in paid advertisements through Facebook.

Given that I was fiercely covering human rights and various battles at the time, one of my primary objectives for Alternative Medi4 was to show/prove to the world that the United States was capable of outsourcing more than just War, death and destruction. For this reason, I restricted all advertisements specifically to every country the United States was either at War with or presently bombing; Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Pakistan. What I uncovered was remarkable.

Over the course of about 7-8 months, using only about $635, I had managed to obtain close to 21,000 followers throughout the Middle East and Africa. In fact, studying my targeting tactics actually changed the way that members of the US Government fought back against Islamic State propaganda. For example, after studying my page and how effective my advertisements had become, members of the FBI, US Department of Defense and other like them began paying for advertisements themselves – specifically in the Middle East targeting audiences susceptible to Islamic State recruitment or propaganda – in order to raise awareness and/or curb them away from extremism.

However, fast forward into 2018, with an entirely new project ahead of me, my first two attempts at getting different domains indexed through Google News have both been declined, and my page is so new that Facebook is still blocking me from applying for verification. Twitter verification on the other hand has been so abused over the years that it no longer even exists.

Starting last weekend, for the first time in about 7 months, I have begun purchasing Facebook advertisements and cant help but notice how much things have changed since the last time I’ve done business with them. Even the set up for Facebook ads itself has been completely updated/revamped/changed. What I’m seeing is that Facebook has vastly changed their algorithms and completely redesigned their ad user interface, now requiring much more detail when it comes to filling out/completing an ad form. While this could be construed either positively or negatively, personally, I kind of like it.

Perhaps most noticeably, Facebook has drastically cut down on the number of “like” websites you can tie or attach your target audience to, I think to put more emphasis on verified pages only. They have also completely redesigned and/or recatagorized different interests, hobbies or activities into more consolidated groups – I think to better string together a wider group/array of people for each target, thus helping page owners reach more people with each advertisement.

My Short Term Results?

Over the course of the last 6 days, at a clip of $3 a day, I have managed to get just short of 70 new followers – targeting audiences specifically around the fields of hacking and computer/data security. This translates to roughly 10-12 followers a day, or $.25 per follower. Believe it or not, this is actually far more effective than I was anticipating. I say this because I once paid Facebook $20 in 2017 to target essentially the same audience, but only received roughly 2-10 followers combined for the money. I’m not entirely sure if this change is more a result of the new content I am covering for Rogue Media Labs, or a reflection of Facebook‘s changes to their own algorithms. Though if I had a guess, I would assume it’s all on Facebook’s end.

What I do know is that I have owned Rogue Media Labs for 2 weeks now and ever since paying Facebook to promote my page/content about a week ago, my website hits have increased by approximately 307%. On top of this, my Facebook Page views have increased 263% and I am now getting traffic from 13 different countries – 6 more than during my first week. Having only spent about $16 to date, I would say that is pretty effective – though to be fair it is hard to say how much of this is a reflection of my content/work and the connections I’m making with other authors/websites, or how much social media is contributing. Given the new direction of my site I don’t see myself going back to the Middle East for page likes, but over the course of the next several weeks and months I will be experimenting with different paid advertisements targeting different audience, stay tuned for updates.

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Brian Dunn

Writer, Researcher Owner: Rogue Media Labs | Rogue Security Labs (929)-319-2570 BrianDunn@RogueSecurityLabs.Ltd

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