App Bans on Facebook

Banning criteria still not clear

Some of the 500 million Facebook users may stay without their favorite application these days thanks to the fact that Facebook has reportedly started shutting down some third-party applications. However, the reasons and criteria for such banning remain unclear.

According to certain reports, this may be happening thanks to the reviewing activities of an automated anti-spam technology. One of its victims is an instant-hit tool for tracking changes in friends’ relationships, titled Breakup Notifier, which saw some 3.6 million users in only a few days. The company’s spokesman on this occasion stated: "We still don't know why Facebook did this, and they haven't told us what we need to do to restore our application.”

In Facebook’s response to an Information Week enquiry, they stated that a Facebook automated system 'temporarily' shut down the application. It was added that "these systems have worked well, cutting spam by 95 percent last year alone. We're currently looking into the issue and have reached out to the developer.” This statement was then confirmed by the Breakup Notifier spokesman, who added that Facebook is working to restore API access.

There’s still a question – is this move smart, considering the estimates that major social networks will see their revenue for games and applications boost to between $2.60 and $5 per registered user by 2017, and specifically for Facebook this would mean revenue of between $1.3 billion and $2.5 billion on games and apps alone (even without increased membership).

In this unfortunate app banning action, another successful application fell victim - a multi-player poker application, for which the developer had paid out $1,617 for Facebook ads to promote it, and which received more than 50,000 clicks and about 15,000 installs within 12 hours. Its developer claimed that "the app was not forcing the users in any way to spam. For every action in the game that a user might want to share we display a pop up with two options: skip and share. If a user clicks share we display the facebook window to allow the user to customize the post. Again the user has the option to either skip or post.

It was added: "We strongly believe that facebook bot made a huge mistake which affected us financially. Our stats show that 90 percent of our installs came from facebook ads, 5 percent from invites, and about 4 percent from shares.

"This is extremelly frustrating because we have no intention of spamming facebook or gathering users through illegal means, otherwise we would not invest so much money in facebook ads. We appealed to facebook and we are waiting for a resolution to this issue. Facebook charged us for the installs and banned our app."

Concerning another case, where an application was banned because of too many stream.publish calls, Facebook explained that to ensure positive user experiences, it runs routine automated screens that "...take user feedback, machine learning, and various algorithms into account and remove spammy applications. For example, if an application is making an inordinate number of stream.publish calls and receiving a large number of user reports, it may be removed by our automated systems to protect the user experience and the Platform ecosystem."

Facebook has applications developed by businesses from more than 190 countries, which are used more than 20 million times a day. Also some 250 million people use external sites to connect to Facebook.

In addition to the recent application banning developments on Facebook, there’s also the case of another major source of apps, the Apple iStore, which last year decided to change its developer agreement. With this change it introduced, in part, barring of location-based targeting, third-party analytics, and the use of competitors' ad providers within applications.

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