Will Messenger ads bring spam to Facebook Marketplace?

15 Jan 2017

Facebook Marketplace relies on Facebook Messenger for communication between buyer and seller. But news from Facebook that the social media giant is introducing ads into Messenger raises the disturbing question: will Facebook Marketplace users run the risk of being inundated by spam?

Perhaps – but not immediately.

Messengers new “highly targeted in-context ads,” as Facebook is calling them, can only be sent by a company or brand to Facebook users who have previously started a conversation with that entity via Messenger.

And not just any conversation: only ones that involved requesting information from a company chatbot will allow a Messenger ad to be sent. That would seem to leave out Facebook Marketplace conversations.

But, writes Josh Levenson at The Next Web:

What’s unclear, however, is if Facebook is able to make a distinction between messages sent to automated chat bots and those sent to human representatives.

If that turns out to be the case, it’s certainly possible that Messenger ads could bleed into Marketplace. Savvy sellers who set up their own chatbots and businesses slipping in under the radar posing as individuals on Marketplace could hijack Messenger to send ads of their own.

Facebook says users needn’t worry about being spammed, because they can always block messages they don’t want to receive. But how many users will do that and how many will just walk away annoyed?

If ads in Messenger receive positive feedback, expect to see similar products target WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased in 2014.

Here’s how Facebook described the new functionality on its official developer forum:

Designed to provide visibility into optimal entry points, enhance existing conversations, and enable you to build better overall experiences, Messenger Platform v1.3 will give you more opportunities to effectively reach and engage over 1 billion people who use Messenger every month.

If readers have unwanted ads coming their way via Messenger, please let us know and we’ll report them here in Facebook Watch.

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Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.