Facebook accuses Signal of lying about its attempt to run transparent Instagram ads

Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said Signal never tried to actually run the transparent Instagram ads and believes the company is only talking it up for publicity.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Facebook has hit back at Signal, after the latter revealed it was booted from Instagram after it tried to run a series of Instagram ads to show the amount of data the social media platform and its parent company Facebook collect about users, and how it uses the data to push targeted ads. 

"This is a stunt by Signal, who never even tried to actually run these ads -- and we didn't shut down their ad account for trying to do so," a Facebook spokesperson told ZDNet

"If Signal had tried to run the ads, a couple of them would have been rejected because our advertising policies prohibit ads that assert that you have a specific medical condition or sexual orientation, as Signal should know. But of course, running the ads was never their goal -- it was about getting publicity."

Signal took to Twitter to respond to Facebook's accusation saying: "We absolutely did try to run these. The ads were rejected, and Facebook disabled our ad account."

Signal pointed to "real screenshots" of when its ad campaign was disabled.

"These are real screenshots, as Facebook should know," Signal said.

Image: Signal

But according to Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne, who responded to Signal's tweets, the screenshots that Signal pointed to were from early March, "when the [Signal] ad account was briefly disabled for a few days due to an unrelated payments issue".

"The ads themselves were never rejected as they were never set by Signal to run. The ad account has been available since early March, and the ads that don't violate our policies could have run since then," Osborne wrote.

Signal has recently gained a flood of new users after Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced new terms of service that would allow it to share user profile data with Facebook in some circumstances. The new terms are due to take effect on May 15.

Signal became the fastest growing app in Q1 2021, according to mobile ad analytics App Annie.

Last month, Signal exposed it was possible to gain arbitrary code execution through Cellebrite tools. The tools are used to pull data out of phones the user has in their possession.

Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike said that Cellebrite contains "many opportunities for exploitation" and he thought Cellebrite should have been more careful when creating their forensic tools.

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