Facebook, MySpace Talk Tough on App Scams

To combat the rise of rogue third-party applications carrying bogus offers or other scams, social networking giants Facebook and MySpace both spoke out this week with chiding reminders to developers and advertisers about their policies.

MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta noted an increase in apps offering promotions with hidden renewal agreements with default opt-out settings, and said the firm would update its usage agreement to explicitly block the practice.

“Because it’s our belief opt-out offers are misleading and do not have the best interests of the users in mind, we will be updating our terms of use this week to better clarify this for users and developers,” Van Natta said.

Separately, Facebook’s Nick Gianos, a marketing associate in the company’s platform division, sent out a warning shot last night reiterating a zero-tolerance policy regarding deceptive advertisements and applications.

“Deceptive ads are a widespread issue on the Web and one we fight aggressively,” Gianos wrote in a blog post. “This battle is not new and it’s far from over.”

Both companies, but Facebook in particular, have flourished from the work of developers who create and distribute applications across the social networks.

Facebook says that more than 70 percent of its 300 million users regularly use applications on the site, which run the gamut from banal games and quizzes to serious efforts to organize for a civic cause.

For developers, the app platforms can offer a lucrative source of revenue from advertising, but that opportunity has attracted some bad actors the companies say they’re working to remove.

Since July, when Facebook updated its policies for third-party apps, the company has purged two ad networks from its site, and “suspended or brought into compliance” more than 100 apps, Gianos said. Yesterday, Facebook took down two more ad networks it identified as repeat violators of its policies, but declined to name them.

Facebook said it was principally targeting the networks that serve ads on the site, noting that individual developers aren’t always responsible for the ads that show up in their apps.

Both companies framed their comments this week around the user experience, which, obviously, is undermined by gimmicky come-ons and scams hiding in apps.

“The underlying issues here are bigger than ads,” Gianos said. “They’re about building an experience that users will want to come back to … no spam, no surprises.”

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