How to Block Facebook’s Annoying New Autoplay Video Ads

Here's how to keep the social network usable without abandoning it entirely.

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Before I tell you how to block Facebook‘s new autoplay video ads, a word about autoplay video ads: they’re a bad idea. Not just bad like junk in your mailbox, but bad like someone planting a Vegas billboard outside your window that turns on any time you want to admire the scenery.

They are not the price you should have to pay to keep using a service without opening your wallet. And they certainly shouldn’t be foisted on people only after a company’s signed up subscribers in the gazillions. That’s called bait-and-switch: using “free” as the lure, then pulling the rug out after everyone’s good and snookered to fulfill investor fantasies.

But don’t tell Facebook: the company’s in full doublespeak mode, referring to the ads as a “richer storytelling format for advertisers”:

Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time. From launching new products to shifting brand sentiment, this video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact, and for people who will discover more great content in their News Feeds.

I have no problem with “compelling sight, sound and motion.” I watched Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercials on YouTube I don’t know how many times. I can admire the odd, sly, self-aware, non-pandering ad. But there are points where advertising delivery mechanisms shift from being helpful — even entertaining — to invasive. Sites that automatically plays video adverts fall in the latter column.

Here’s what Facebook’s first ads look like: a deal with Summit Entertainment to promote one of the studio’s upcoming flicks:

When you scroll through your Facebook News Feed, whether on mobile or desktop, these video ads will now autoplay, the one concession being that they’ll do so without sound — if you want to hear them, you have to click on them (that’s how videos already work on Facebook when friends share videos with friends). The other concession is that the ads won’t load on mobile devices unless they’ve first been synchronized via Wi-Fi, eliminating mobile data usage concerns. These are important gestures, but the visual distraction remains a visual distraction.

Unless you take other measures and block them, anyway. You can’t scrub them out entirely using a multi-platform blocker like AdBlock (at least not without delving into custom CSS filters). But you can prevent the ads from automatically playing. Since they’re Flash-based by default, you need a Flash blocker for your browser.

I use something called ClickToFlash in Safari: a free plugin that places a gray curtain over Flash content that remains unless you click to start it; the Chrome equivalent, which I also use, is FlashBlock, though AdBlock Plus (for Firefox, Chrome, Android, Opera and Internet Explorer, though not Safari yet — a version’s apparently in development) supports tab-based Flash or Java blocking. I like ClickToFlash because it doesn’t remove the content entirely, it just renders it inert, like firing a freeze ray at the neighbor’s yippy toy poodle.

Facebook’s new video ads support HTML5, so instead of a gray curtain, I see a fixed HTML5 snapshot of the ad, which I can either click to watch or right-click if I want to select and load the Flash version (if you just want to block everything, ClickToFlash lets you disable HTML5 fallback). Either way, the ad is frozen on appearance and control of playback is returned to me, where it belongs.

Facebook’s notion of ad-blocking is to just “keep scrolling” past the ad. You can do that, sure, but it’s a crude workaround and too big a compromise (if these plugins weren’t available, I’d have to say goodbye to Facebook). Better to use one of these tools, then, if you want to maintain control of this aspect of your browsing experience.

22 comments
LaceyAccardi
LaceyAccardi

I should not have just had to watch baby chicks be sucked into a death machine and doctors poke a newborn baby moving in the sack outside of the womb only to be aborted because of this auto play. It's not for ads, it's for mental torture. I shouldn't have to watch this on my own feed, I never know when it's going to pop up or who's going to post it. It's disturbing that it plays automatically.

mariehuynh
mariehuynh

The wifi-only feature is buggy, so it's chewing up my data plan that was previously sufficient.

drbirchett
drbirchett

It's not just ads doing this for me, EVERY single video in my news feed is playing automatically as soon as it scrolls on screen. It's driving me insane!

SteveArnold
SteveArnold

I logged into like 50 videos playing at once on newsfeed and even on high speed it has slowed my computer down so much could barely move mouse, this feature has to go? are there any settings we can change in facebook to stop this madness?

FBPurity
FBPurity

The previously mentioned FB Purity v9.4.0 is now out, and does a fine job of stopping autoplay videos on desktop Facebook. You can get FB Purity here:  http://fbpurity.com

reggie991
reggie991

I like how you say autoplay messages are bad, but yet your article about how to turn them off uses the exact same reasoning Facebook uses. You title your article is such a way so that I think its going to be what I want, but then I get in here and your article spends all of its time talking about how bad autoplay ads are. You article is the autoplay of words.

AshesFend
AshesFend

I read a lot of blogs. I quickly get way too frustrated with idesigntimes.com (for a horrible example). They have auto play videos (sometimes two on the same damn page) and it's set up to sort of refresh the page on its' own, so if you clicked pause or mute, it's going to play again anyhow with sound.

I HATE THIS BS.

Hmmm777
Hmmm777

I wish people would stop using facebook, that will definitely send a clear message to how horrible this company is. 

not_the_doctor
not_the_doctor

I see all video in the newsfeed autoplaying now too.  Great for those of us in rural areas with 5GB, 10GB, etc. monthly data caps.  Of course I'll just block all the videos now.

FBPurity
FBPurity

The latest Beta version of the safe, top rated and free FB Purity browser extension has a built in option for disabling Facebook''s auto play videos and converts them to click to play videos. You can read more about it here: http://fb.com/fluffbustingpurity

binreminded
binreminded

Try getting older - you'll have ads on FB for over 50s seeking partners, incontinence and your own funeral expense insurance. Your wife will look over your shoulder thinking "..unfaithful, wets himself and dying..."

givemeabreak
givemeabreak

Is anyone truly surprised that Facebook is milking users for every cent they can get? There is no reason for anyone to stick it out with Facebook. Things will only get worse. The sooner everyone heads to Zurker, the better. https://www.zurker.com/

sixonewayhalfadozenanother
sixonewayhalfadozenanother

I have Chrome and by simply changing the setting for plug-ins to "click to play", it disabled a "friendly", non-ad video and replaced it with a white screen with a swirling circle.

komkus
komkus

@givemeabreak 

Zurker is great. I love it.

nopenotme
nopenotme

@sixonewayhalfadozenanother simple? sure, click the gear parallel lines, settings, advanced, ummm privacy, scroll down to plugins and then turn off the recommended setting of auto, to click to play.
It's as simple as depositing 100 dollars into a savings account every week.