A couple of months ago I grew frustrated with all the “sponsored posts” (ads) on Facebook. I understand they have to have revenue to operate. But it had reached a point where about every fourth post was an ad (this being with the app on my phone). And so I set out to see if there was anything I could do about it.
For a time it wasn’t so bad on my PC because I use the FB Purity browser add-on. But a code-change at Facebook broke the functionality that let FB Purity block the sponsored ads (this has since been fixed). After this I got in the habit of using FB’s “Hide All From This Advertiser” feature. It got to be habit-forming – I’d just scroll down until I found an ad, block it, and keep scrolling. Sometimes the advertiser would show up a second time, but after that they generally stayed gone. And yes I knew I’d never block’em all. It’s just something I did (and sometimes still do).
But as I did this day after day, the FB ads got weirder and weirder. Curiosity drove me to see just how weird they’d get. I wasn’t disappointed. Nowadays probably 80% of the ads are from various “ministries” seeking to save my soul while simultaneously raiding my wallet.
And mind you the vast bulk of these ads are not representative of mainstream Christianity. Yes, I’ve seen a few “come worship with us” ads for regular churches local to wherever I am at the time – and that’s fine by me. But most of these ads are hoaxers and hucksters peddling salvation through weird rituals, magic stones, blessed elixirs, etc. Or, they’ll sell you a “special” bible or a scroll. Or call’em up and they’ll pray away all your problems for a small donation.
And to think I blocked ads from real companies just to get inundated by a bunch of con artists.
And here’s something else – this tells me that Facebook isn’t vetting their advertisers. A report from a couple years back showed that 19 of the top 20 Christian pages on Facebook were actually foreign troll farms. Check this table:
Top-Ranked Facebook Christian Pages of 2019 Rank Christian Troll Farm? 1 Be Happy Enjoy Life Y 2 Jesus is my Lord Y 3 You Can Y 4 Speak Loudly Y 5 Purpose of Life Y 6 Positive Quotes Y 7 Memories of a loved one Y 8 Smile & Shine Y 9 Light of the World Y 10 Why Not Us? Y 11 Happiness Is In Your Mind Y 12 My Life Y 13 Life is Beautiful Y 14 Blessing Y 15 Conscious Reminder Y 16 Blessed Y 17 Guideposts N 18 Simply Beautiful Y 19 Motivational Quotes & Videos Y 20 light-candle for a lost love one Y– – Data from 2019 MIT Technology Review
Here are screen captures from Facebook of some of the suspicious ads I’ve encountered. It’s nowhere near all of them:
The idea of starting my own phony church has occurred to me. I’m a pretty good bullshit artist so I’m sure I could come up with a workable gimmick. I’m getting old and a supplement to my retirement (and a new hobby) would be nice. However, I have a strong Humanist moral foundation, so I wouldn’t feel right about taking advantage of the gullible. Having a conscience is such a pain at times.
UPDATE: FB Purity has fixed the bug so sponsored posts are blocked if you’re using FB in a browser with Windows or Mac. There is no Android version of the add-on as of this writing.