To car enthusiasts all around the world, a website like Car Throttle is like a dream come true. With an interface which could only be described as a mixture of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, Car Throttle makes it effortless for car fans to engage with one another, and the automotive world is all the better for it. But as we’ve seen before with Facebook, as social media based websites grow, it is vital that they strike a balance between looking after their users and chasing the almighty advertising dollar.
I must admit, I was rather late to the party – having only signed up to Car Throttle in January of this year. For the most part, I’ve admired the community that the CT team have built, and the feeling of camaraderie that exists between all of its users. It is everything a car lover could want, and more. Fair rules, freedom of speech, and the ability for posts about literally anything automotive related to be understood and appreciated by others. Bravo, CT. But as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and recently I’ve noticed something which all CTzens should rightly be concerned about.
Whilst browsing the site a few days ago, a promoted post popped up on my feed advertising Best of the Best PLC – a UK registered company which operates a “Spot the ball” style gambling operation with new cars being offered as a prize. “Watch us surprise this 21-year-old… with a new Maserati Ghibli S,” the post said, with a video showing a representative of the company doing just that. It then asks the user if they’d “like to be surprised next week?” and spammed a bunch of links offering you the chance to win vehicles such as a Dodge Challenger SRT or Nissan 370Z Nismo. There’s nothing illegal per se about what’s happening here, but I absolutely disagree with the method Car Throttle has used to display sponsored posts such as this.
For starters, no matter how many new updates appeared on my feed, the promoted post always clocked in at #5 – moving its way up the feed to maintain position. Secondly, and most worryingly, there’s absolutely no way to turn the ad off or hide it. I’ve been looking at it for at least 5 days already, and I don’t know about you, but if I was somebody who had a gambling addiction I’d be feeling pretty itchy right about now. There’s absolutely no way this type of ram-it-down-your-throat advertising behaviour would fly on Facebook or Twitter. Even individual ads served up by Google Adwords banners are able to be hidden so that you’ll stop seeing them. So how is this acceptable on Car Throttle?
After spending some time looking around for options to hide or remove the post from my feed, I politely asked a question in the comments section as to why that was the case. I assumed that perhaps it was a simple oversight on CT’s part, as I’ve always found the team to be fair and reasonable up till now. However, after checking in the next day, I noticed there was a big fat [DELETED] label put in place of my original comment, with at least 3 other commenters receiving the same treatment. Perhaps the moderators were unable to keep up, as CTzen allride‘s plea of “Please give us an option to hide posts like this. To me, this is spam!” remained in place – although probably not for much longer.
So the question remains, is this an insight into a new Car Throttle policy of prioritising advertisers and advertising revenue over its users and freedom of speech? And is this ad being served to all users, even those who aren’t old enough to gamble? I sincerely hope not, as it has the potential to do some real damage.
I’ll be posting this article up on CT for their feedback, and will update it with their response.