Facebook puts the brakes on new Messenger bots — for now

Facebook took out full-page advertisements on March 25 in such major newspapers as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Observer, and The Guardian to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica debacle.

Here’s the latest consequence of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal: the social network has paused its review of new apps and bots for Messenger. This means no new chatbots and Messenger experiences can added to Facebook pages — for now.

This change is one of several measures announced by Ime Archibong, vice president of platform partnerships, intended to prevent the abuse of users and their data. “These are critical steps that involve reviewing developers’ actions for evidence of misuse, implementing additional measures to protect data, and giving people more control of their information,” wrote Archibong in a blog post.

While necessary, these steps widen the fallout from this scandal to the developer community. Chatbot developers and their customers — who depend on Messenger for revenue, community engagement, and marketing — have become unwittingly ensnared in this mess, and are actively pursuing workarounds. The prohibition against new apps and bots could last several weeks.

Octane AI, whose bots helps brands increase sales with conversational commerce, sent a bluntly worded email from CEO Matt Schlict to its customers:

What does this mean?

• If your Facebook page does not currently have a bot, you will not be able to add one.

• If your Facebook page has a bot, and you disconnect it, you will not be able to add it back.

When can we add new bots and Messenger experiences?

• In a few weeks.

Schlicht’s email counsels patience, calls the corrections being undertaken by Facebook “a good thing,” and even offers to help those companies needing a new bot within the next month. Apparently, Facebook may allow some exceptions.

But with Messenger being temporarily closed for business, Schlicht also outlines ways that Octane AI can help. The bot-maker continues to assist companies with conversational commerce across such platforms as Shopifyand Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Facebook’s announcement follows a related action by Twitter. Last month, the online news and social networking service initiated changes that prevent bots and third party apps from sending mass likes, automatically liking and retweeting messages, and restricting the use of multiple accounts. Unwittingly caught in these changes are legitimate media organizations with multiple accounts. Twitter will allow for exceptions for emergency alerts and public service announcements.

Facebook’s original mission was to make the world more open and connected, but its business model was to harvest users and their data on behalf of advertisers. One unfortunate outcome of this misalignment was the 50 million users whose data was sold to Cambridge Analytica. The next was chatbot developers and their customers — for now.

Disclosure: Octane AI is an All Turtles studio company.