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Facebook: Hide ad topics

How do we give ad controls to people who want to avoid seeing certain topics?

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Every May, this is what many people's email accounts look like.

My colleague, who had lost their mother a few years before, was devastated every year by the barrage of Mother's Day content they were subjected to via social media, email, TV, etc.

Similarly, Facebook serves ads on a variety of topics that might be difficult for people: alcohol, pregnancy, parenthood, marriage, etc.

We knew people wanted a way to limit ads on certain topics. We conducted surveys and research to discover more about which topics were the most troubling, how strong their feelings were about them, and other important insights.

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We introduced a way to hide ads related to 2 topics: alcohol and parenting.

These topics were prioritized based on the quality of our system's machine learning (and thus effectiveness) at the time. People could hide ad topics directly from individual ads, or from an ad preferences page.

Content considerations

There wasn't a lot of content in the product experience itself, but the content that existed played a critical role in people's ability to use the feature. Here's where I focused.



The team had suggested naming this feature "sensitive ad topics" since that had been the internal name. However, I did some exploration in collaboration with our PMM and found that "sensitive" was a term often used in privacy features, so it could be confusing.

I advocated for not naming the feature at all, but simply describing its function: "Hide ads about [topic]."



We also needed to label the length of time the "hiding" would be in effect. I made 3 decisions that impacted these labels and made it usable:

  1. We would use plain language to describe any finite time periods: "6 months" and "1 year."

  2. In service of clarity, I advocated for and got team buy-in to add the exact end date that would be shown along with someone's selection.

  3. In order to leave the filter on without an end date, I explored various terms and chose "permanently" as the label that would be clear, concise, and easy to localize.

The result? A successful feature

The feature was noticed and appreciated by media and community. Enough people used the functionality that other topics were added later.

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