By Kevin Kelleher
June 12, 2018

For years, Facebook has envisioned its apps as venues where businesses can interact intimately with their customers. But now, under pressure to clean up its service, the social network is taking a more active role in policing shoddy businesses that use its service.

Facebook said on Tuesday that it would ban businesses that receive enough customer complaints from advertising. The company is pitching the move as effort to improve customer service through its core Facebook app.

“Bad shopping experiences aren’t good for anyone,” Facebook said in an online post. “When items take a long time to arrive or don’t meet your expectations, it can cost you time and money. And if these things happen after purchasing something from a business’ ad on Facebook, it can sour your overall impression of Facebook.”

Facebook is all about removing sour tastes this year, following a series of controversies involving privacy lapses. The company said it’s spoken with users who bought things after clicking on a Facebook ad and found that some of them were frustrated by ads that quoted inaccurate shipping times or misrepresented their offerings. Others complained about poor communication or opaque return policies.

A new tool from Facebook will let those users complain to Facebook about bad service. Users can review interactions with businesses by offering feedback through Facebook’s “Ad Activity” tab. Repeat offenders will be directed to Facebook’s customer-feedback guidelines first. If that doesn’t work, Facebook may simply ban the advertiser.

The approach is similar to the one Facebook is taking to fake news: crowdsourcing its users’ opinions to decide which bad actors must go. But it’s not clear yet whether the new customer service tool will be exploited in the same way that Yelp reviews can for, say, companies that are receiving a lot of high-profile and unfavorable news coverage.

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