Ad-blocking company claims to be 'outfoxing' Facebook in game of 'cat and mouse' over ads

Adblock Plus, the popular online ad-blocking software, has said it is “outfoxing” Facebook by blocking adverts on the social network in an ongoing game of “cat and mouse”.

The free web browser extension, which is owned by German company Eyeo and claims to be used on more than 100m devices, said Facebook was a “true giant” with “two billion users inside a closed community”.

“Think of Facebook as a private country club and (most) of the rest of the web as a public park,” it said in a recent blog post.

But it added: “User feedback to Facebook and to ad blockers like us led us to concur that Facebook users still don’t want to see ads that they haven’t asked to see. This is why both we and our user community have been busy working on a more lasting fix to let ad blockers do what they do.

“…We’re outfoxing Facebook’s latest attempt to hide the ads on their site so ad blockers can’t block them.

“We’re reasonably sure that Facebook’s IT army will eventually outfox our outfoxing. Just like death and paying taxes, Facebook will continue the cat-and-mouse game, ushering in a fix that will stop ad blockers.”

Adblock Plus warned that in order to avoid the ad-blockers Facebook would ultimately have to make adverts “indistinguishable from content”, but added: “It’s not likely they’ll go that far”.

“We can almost promise our users that Facebook will be back with a fix to our fix,” it said. “Still, we felt like it was important to notify you that the fix is there and let you know that Facebook’s offensive against the open source community, including all content-blocker producers, is ongoing…

“But, we, along with our millions of open source users in the community, will keep on sluggin [sic] away, no matter how many rounds we go.”

Currently Adblock Plus is only available for Google Chrome and Opera browsers.

Facebook announced last month that it was increasing transparency around political advertising following concerns about so-called “dark ads”.

Adblock Plus released its own advertising sales platform late last year in what was described as a “cynical move” by the Internet Advertising Bureau.

Ad-blocking has disrupted news publishers’ ability to create revenue from digital display advertising. It was said to be putting “severe pressure” on the UK news media industry in the 2016 Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

According to an industry surveys nearly half of 16 to 24-year-olds now use an ad-blocker on their mobile phone, while  more than one in five British adults uses an ad-blocker.

Google could introduce an ad-blocking feature for Chrome that could be switched on by default, according to a Wall Street Journal report in April that quoted sources “familiar” with the web giant’s plans.