Banish Facebook diet advertisements

20th November 2008

Banish Facebook diet advertisements

I’m on Facebook and the blog has its Facebook network group, so I see those ridiculous dieting ads in my sidebar every time I log in. I’ve become so desensitized to dieting ads by now that I usually tune them out altogether and those that do catch my eye I recognize as the ridiculous snake oil claims they really are. I mean, come on… Has anyone seen Oprah recently? Obviously acai berries aren’t the new weight loss superfood she purportedly touts them to be.

Not everyone is as impervious to diet ads as I am. Cruella Blog author Kate was so incensed by weight-loss and dieting ads on Facebook that she neutered her profile. As Kate explains it, the Facebook advertising system is supposed to target customers most likely to be interested in their products, but after struggling with anorexia as a teen the now college student holds absolute zero interest in trying the Rachel Ray or Supermodel wonder diets. So, why are these ads appearing on her profile? Ponders Kate:

…I don’t seem to be getting any adverts that are hitting me because I’m a university graduate, because my favourite film is Secrets and Lies or because I’m a member of the group “I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin”. You would think Republican adverts for foreign policy researchers would be over-loading my system. No instead the only measure I am being profiled on is “has vagina” (tick) therefore “must hate own body and want to be size zero” (uh-uh).

The ads bothered Kate so much she removed her gender option from her profile altogether. She’s now subjected to very few annoying diet ads, but she can’t keep from wondering about other option-female Facebook users out there, especially those who are still actively struggling with body image or an eating disorder.

Is Facebook checking to make sure it doesn’t send adverts like these inappropriately to those with or at risk of developing issues with their bodies? Maybe they could add an extra box to people’s profiles. Are you interested in starting an extreme weigh-loss diet based exclusively on grass seeds and acai berries? No? Oh, ok we’ll leave you alone then.

One of Kate’s commenters recommended these great Facebook groups:

Mark Weight Loss Adverts on Facebook as “Offensive”
FUCK OFF with your sexist diet advertisements, Facebook

The first group also recommends that every time you see a weight loss advert in your sidebar, click the thumb-down icon and mark it as offensive. I changed my profile to genderless and one refresh later, bye bye dieting and beauty ads. Hello less annoying “Campers and Hikers needed,” “Publish your own book,” and “Bearcats fan gear” adverts.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2008 at 2:12 pm and is filed under Body Image, Diets, Eating Disorders, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 31 responses to “Banish Facebook diet advertisements”

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  1. 1 On November 20th, 2008, Melissa said:

    I think the same thing when I see those facebook diet ads featuring Oprah. It’s funny how their seems to be “two” Oprahs- the one on the show, then the permanent thin version in magazines and ads.
    Actually Oprah had on her show a week or so ago the winner from “The Biggest Loser” and I just couldn’t believe how they presented a woman losing 109 in 6 months. Most of the show was praises and talking it up with her and those twisted trainers. Maybe 3 minutes in total Oprah mentioned slightly that people might not be able to work out 7 hours a day. Otherwise, yeah it was really unappealing.

    There are so many young people (or older women with body issues) on facebook, its kind of like a street scam, it’s only a matter of time before you catch one.

  2. 2 On November 20th, 2008, Tiffany said:

    I hate those ads, too! I also get annoying diet ads on Hotmail and Yahoo mail, and you’re right, they are targeting us because we’re women. As if we have nothing else to spend our money on than stupid diet plans. I am glad these 2 Facebook groups have been set up and I definitely want to join them.

  3. 3 On November 20th, 2008, ladyjaye said:

    I’m pretty annoyed too at those ads, and they only seem to get worse. Also, what’s the point of adding a “flag this ad” feature if Facebook won’t listen or if that feature won’t put that ad on a blacklist for the particular user?

    And it’s true that these are scammy, dangerous products being advertised. How many times have we heard of a given gimmicky weight-loss Asian tea being deadly?

    As you pointed out, Rachel, I too am not opposed to having sidebar ads in facebook. But why can’t I choose the ad categories?

  4. 4 On November 20th, 2008, BigLiberty said:

    Oh thank the gods, there’s a way to get rid of those damned ads!

    I’ve been marking “offensive” for those ads ever since I realized you could rate them (about two months now). Frustratingly, at times I’ll rate some disgusting sexist damaging weight-loss ad as “offensive” and POOF! it comes right back! Augh!

    Now that I know if I become FB genderless I won’t get bombarded with the ads, that’s what I will likely do. How disgusting, that my womanhood is synonymous with self-hatred and a desire to shrink myself in this effed up culture!

  5. 5 On November 20th, 2008, Karen said:

    There is a way to remove all the ads from Facebook, although it takes a bit of techno-saavy and requires using the Firefox browser. First, get the Firefox browser ( if you don’t already have it. Then, install the Adblock Plus add-on (, and Adblock Plus Element Hiding Helper ( if you don’t already have those. Then, go to Facebook (using Firefox) and use the “Select element to hide” option to remove the ad blocks. It takes a bit of trial and error, as well as comfort with technology, but is a dream once you’ve got it working. Or, ask a technophile friend to get you set up!

  6. 6 On November 20th, 2008, S. said:

    I have been thumbing them down for what feels like months and I think I’m starting to see a difference, but I hadn’t thought about going gender-free on my profile.

    Shouldn’t we be able to be out as women without being targeted, though?

  7. 7 On November 20th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Great idea, Karen. Thanks for the tip!

  8. 8 On November 20th, 2008, JeanC said:

    I’ve been marking them ass offensive and everything else, mostly repetitive. For a few days I didn’t see a diet ad, then they were back with a vengeance. May have to try the Firefox trick.

  9. 9 On November 20th, 2008, lilacsigil said:

    Karen’s tip is absolutely great – I’ve been using this for months and the only ads that get through are those tiny Google text ads, which are easy to ignore. I recommend it as a way to save your precious Sanity Points.

  10. 10 On November 20th, 2008, KD said:

    Thanks Karen!

    I went from being gender neutral on facebook to female two days ago and immediately noticed this difference! Very annoying! Obviously sites like facebook (and the majority of women’s magazines, or any media targeted at women) would flounder without the advertising revune generated from the diet (and beauty) industry so they don’t have much editorial say and our thumbing down won’t help.

    I do have adverts linked to my fave films, though not groups. Groups could be interesting! Also plenty of ads relating to my relationship status.

    O/T, I was testing google ads out in an email exchange to my mum once. An email consisting of the text “cannabis cannabis terrorism bomb cannabis terrorism bomb” produced no ads whatsoever. I imagine if the state started monitoring texts/emails/phone calls it would be an excellent way of crashing their system too.

  11. 11 On November 20th, 2008, wiscck said:

    I’ve been marking them as offensive. And, since I live in Asia, I also get a lot of ads for skin bleaching cream and plastic surgery to make your eyes larger, and I mark them offensive, too. I already have the Ad Block add-on, but I’m going to have to add this other one, also.

  12. 12 On November 20th, 2008, Feminism said:

    I joined that first group. I always mark those ads as “offensive” and have sent several feedback forms to Facebook about it.

    I like the idea of gendering the profile, but I *am* female and I like being female, and I would like my profile to reflect that. Facebook should honor those “offensive” notices and take them off everyone’s profiles, male, female or otherwise.

    Thanks for writing about this; some of my friends shake their heads and roll their eyes when I tell them I mark those ads as “offensive.” I’m glad there are other like minded people out there.

  13. 13 On November 20th, 2008, Jessica said:

    I had been marking them as offensive for weeks, but they didn’t go away. I figured, maybe they don’t understand what’s offensive about them, so I started giving them thumbs-down for “repetitive”. No change- I would literally get rid of one diet ad to have it replaced by another. So I gave up and went genderless. The ads immediately disappeared and were replaced by inoffensive things about biking and events in my hometown.
    Side bonus: no more ads for wedding photography.

  14. 14 On November 20th, 2008, Ashley said:

    Awesome about the additional add-on! I already have AdBlock, but I didn’t realize you could hide text, too! Marvelous. Thanks for the tip!

  15. 15 On November 20th, 2008, Ducky said:

    I’m not on Facebook. Any tips for combating offensive ads on MySpace?

  16. 16 On November 21st, 2008, Entangled said:

    I think my attempt to test this theory was foiled by changing my status message to “Robin is interested in determining if removing gender from her profile removes the offensively stupid acai berry diet ads.” Now ALL I get is acai berry diet ads, but at least I don’t feel like they’re targeting me because I’m female – they’re targeting me because I’m laughing at them.

  17. 17 On November 21st, 2008, Cree said:

    Since they started that crap I’ve always thumbs-down/offensive’d it. I don’t think it help. It almost makes me want to leave Facebook all together, but not quite yet.

    Do you think writing them with hard hitting facts and true stories concerning the horrors of eating disorders would have any effect? Or are they just another corporate like website which cares only that the ads bring in money and nothing about what it does to its subscribers?

  18. 18 On November 21st, 2008, katriona said:

    i just took the gender option out of my facebook profile recently, for the same reason. however it made me give a “him or her” option, so i chose “him” to see if i fared any better in terms of irritating weight loss ads. now i get to vote on “glacier girls” instead. greeeaaat…no winning with facebook sometimes i guess.

  19. 19 On November 21st, 2008, imnotemily said:

    I don’t have my gender listed, and I still get these ads, full force. Perhaps its all my crazy hippy feminist groups I belong to (Diva Cup Appreciators, and so forth). Or the part of my profile under About Me where I identify as a radical feminist. Hmmm….

    Also- Karen, how do you “Select element to hide”? I downloaded AdBlock, I can’t seem to get past that point…

  20. 20 On November 21st, 2008, sandra_nz said:

    Yeah, I’ve been marking these as offensive for quite some time now.

    Another thing that gets me – my husband, who has ‘married’ on his profile, only gets the ‘meet singles in your area’ type of ad. Huh?!

  21. 21 On November 21st, 2008, Karen said:

    Yay, I’m glad I could help!

    Imnotemily: do you also have the Adblock Plus Element Hiding Helper ( That’s the bit that adds the “Select element to hide” option to your Adblock.

    You can use the element hiding option on any webpage at all – not just Facebook – so it may very well work for MySpace. I’d be surprised if it didn’t work at all, although it might take some playing around to get it just right.

    One more tip: once you get the “Compose element hiding rule” window (which comes up once you click “Select element to hide” and then click on an item you want to hide), I strongly recommend the Preview check-box to the top right. That helps make sure you are blocking what you intend and only what you intend. If you want to undo a block, go into Adblock’s Preferences and scroll down to the bottom, where the elements you’ve hidden are listed and can be removed from the blocked list.

  22. 22 On November 21st, 2008, Godless Heathen said:

    Ah yes, male consumers are targeted with ads that let them be more, female consumers are always targeted with ads extorting them to be less.

    I can’t wait till I’m back on my own computer and I can use adblock again.

  23. 23 On November 21st, 2008, Jasie said:

    Thanks for pointing out these groups! I barely notice the ads… as a mom I’ve learned to filter anything entering my eyes or ears (a great survival tool with a ridiculously talkative child) ;) But now I’ve been flagging them as either offensive or irrelevant.

  24. 24 On November 21st, 2008, Amy said:

    I’ve been hitting “thumbs down” for as long as I can remember on those ads. At first I thought it was because I had fitness and weight loss in the “interest” section of my profile, but I removed that, and still got the awful ads.

  25. 25 On November 21st, 2008, wiscck said:

    Hmm. I have both AdBlock and the element hiding option, and I can’t figure out what to do to get to “Select Element to Hide”.

  26. 26 On November 22nd, 2008, Rachel2 said:

    I joined those two facebook groups, and have since marked every diet and weight loss add as offensive or misleading.

  27. 27 On November 22nd, 2008, Sylvia said:

    Hey, I love your blog but have never commented before because I am a mad lurker.

    Anyway… I too have been tackling this issue for awhile now – marking the ads as offensive and sending emails to every Facebook department I could find. The tack I took was explaining how invasive and triggering they are for me as a once-again-attempting recovery anorexic, and that I felt preyed on as both a woman and as someone with a mental illness. I tried to compare it to them advertising alcohol or valium and it showing up on a recovering alcoholic’s or drug addict’s page, and how that would be considered a cruel and awful thing to do. I also pointed out that friends have mentioned it has shocked and upset them when diet ads pop up on the side of my page, considering they have had fears about me dying from anorexia.

    I received, from everyone I sent this to, personalised responses which were very sympathetic BUT also said there was nothing they could / would do.

    There was also a generic paragraph about me marking and sending them screenshots of “illegal” ads, which obviously doesn’t apply to me.

    So while overall the response was unsatisfactory, I was reassured that humans are reading and replying to the emails, and that if enough of us do it, and are descriptive and vocal enough about the effects, it has got to get through to someone eventually.

    Also, as a tip – as well as marking the ads offensive, I have noticed a specific shift in ads since I have gone out of my way to mark ads I *like* as interesting or relevant – even if I wouldn’t actually click on them :-)

  28. 28 On November 23rd, 2008, anna said:

    A few months ago, I began taking the time to mark every one of these ads as misleading. I’m glad to see these groups and that others have been doing the same.

  29. 29 On November 23rd, 2008, Harriet said:

    Hallelujah! Thanks for the tip. Now I, too, am mostly diet ad-free.

  30. 30 On November 27th, 2008, Jessica M~ said:

    Unfortunately, I fear that Facebook is catching on … or is targeting diet ads to those participating in anti-diet-ad groups. I recently joined one of the anti-ad FB groups and removed gender from my profile, but I am still receiving any number of diet ads.

    (On a side note, though, I do find it amusing that the photo on one of Rachael Ray’s diet ads is pulled from one of her Dunkin Donut spots.)

  31. 31 On May 28th, 2009, Emily Lau said:

    This is an area that i’m currently studying – on how web-ads are perpetuating the same ol’issues on weight watching, esp to the female. So, i like to be in the loop. thanks

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