Facebook Starts an Ad-Free Section for College Students

By Sahil Patel

Facebook Inc. introduced a new section of its platform to cater just to college students.

Called Facebook Campus, the new section will not have ads, said a spokeswoman. “We’re focused on building a great product experience, and at this time have no plans to introduce advertising,” she added.

But Facebook will be able to track users’ activity to inform the ads that it shows the students elsewhere, a second Facebook spokeswoman confirmed.

Campus joins Facebook Dating and Groups as another ad-free section of the platform.

Facebook described Campus as a way for college students to meet each other and connect over shared interests, classes and campus life. That harks back to the company’s 2004 roots as a way for Ivy League students to socialize.

In a blog post, Facebook also said Campus will be useful for college students navigating full- or part-time remote learning as some school campuses remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Campus lets college students create profiles separate from their main Facebook profiles, connect with other classmates, join private groups and see school events. Other features include a college-specific news feed, a campus directory and chat rooms. Content shared on Campus can only be seen by other Campus users, the company said.

The launch of Campus comes after years of scrutiny on how Facebook collects information on its users, as well as its ad policies.

Advertisers can’t target Campus users specifically, a spokeswoman said. But Facebook will track Campus users’ activity to inform which ads and content it shows them elsewhere. And a user’s activity on the main Facebook app could also influence the type of content they see within Campus, according to the company.

“While Campus may not have ads, Facebook is still getting access to more data,” said Brendan Gahan, chief social officer of ad agency Mekanism Inc. “That data can be used across Facebook’s ad network to better target these consumers.”

Certain college-owned Facebook pages will have access to Campus. These pages can create, join and participate in groups and events, but they won’t have access to chats or the directory.

Dozens of colleges are participating in Campus at launch, including Duke University, University of Pennsylvania and Vassar College. Facebook described the current crop of schools as pilots for the program, which it will seek to expand upon in 2021.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *