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article imageAdvertising bots can now talk to you on Facebook Messenger

By James Walker     Aug 18, 2016 in Technology
Facebook has updated its chatbot policies to allow AI-controlled ad bots onto Facebook Messenger. Messenger bots are now allowed to canvas products to you, send you promotions and engage in subscription-based conversations in a rethinking of the rules.
The policy change is designed to make bots on Messenger more engaging. Previously, bots could make purchases on your behalf if you asked them to. They were not allowed to try to sell you products, however. Facebook's updated guidelines have lifted this ban, opening the door to automated bots that can send you ads, promotions for products and services and subscription messages.
Messenger's bot platform was only launched back in April. It is growing quickly though and over 18,000 bots already exist for the service, even if many users are yet to engage with a bot. The prospect of AI-controlled spam messages could quickly turn people away from the idea, although Facebook stresses the user remains in control of promotional bots at all times.
Ad bots are expected to follow the same rules of engagement as other Messenger bots. They cannot send messages to users who have never used their service, preventing your inbox from being filled with promotional campaigns. A bot will only be able to contact you if you initiated the conversation. You can mute or block it, removing the thread entirely.
"We continue to put people in control of their experiences in Messenger," said Facebook Product Manager Seth Rosenberg. "All conversations between businesses and people must be initiated by the person receiving the messages, who can then mute or block the business at any time."
The new policy also includes the introduction of a 24-hour window for messaging with bots. When you send a message to a bot or business, it has 24 hours to respond within a standard thread. If the time expires, it will not be able to contact you until you re-engage with the conversation.
Facebook does allow developers to send a single message outside of the 24-hour window, however, giving bots one chance to get an inactive user back online. This policy helps to protect people from being overrun with bot spam.
Facebook is continuing its trial of subscription bots. These bots have a Messenger feed that you can subscribe to. You'll receive new messages unprompted and more regularly as subscription feeds are exempt from the 24 hour messaging policy.
It is expected these bots will prove popular with the developers of apps in categories such as news, finance and fitness, offering you updates throughout the day on the latest headlines, stock changes and pedometer progress. Because the concept is still so new, Facebook is currently retaining tight control over subscription bots. Companies who wish to create one have to contact Facebook to get their idea approved, providing a detailed plan of how they will use the service.
Facebook is desperate for bots to avoid being associated with spam. It’s aware that breaking that connection with many users will be difficult, based on past experiences of automated support lines, chat rooms and news alerts. Bots are essentially an evolution of these services so Facebook needs to prove they've managed to shed the annoyance of their forbears. The revision of its platform guidelines allows it to more effectively do this while giving developers the ability to begin creating bots today.
Alongside the new rules, Facebook has introduced an updated review program for chatbots. All bots must be reviewed and approved by Facebook before they can be accessed by users. Facebook will deliver its verdict to the developer within five days, either allowing the bot onto its platform or stating the changes that need to be made. Existing developers need to resubmit their apps within the next three months.
Bots still have a long way to go before they become mainstream. They could make it simpler to communicate with businesses and services but only if Facebook gets it right from the start. The updated policies will help to safeguard users on the Messenger platform, in turn shielding bots from the connotations of spam, interruption and frustration that they could soon acquire.
More about Facebook, facebook messenger, Messenger, chatbots, Bots
 
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