LONDON: Leading UK companies have withdrawn their ads from social networking website Facebook after their marketing messages appeared on a page belonging to an extremist right-wing political party.

Telco Vodafone, cable firm Virgin Media and insurer Pru Health are among the businesses that objected to being featured alongside the British National Party, which preaches an anti-immigration message.

Advertisers have little control over where they appear on the Facebook site and are growing increasingly concerned that their reputations may be tarnished by association with pages where there are few editorial restrictions.

Most big marketers go through third-party networks which buy ad space in bulk to distribute messages across the web. This arrangement means companies often have little idea where their ads will appear.

Comments Virgin Media, which has pulled its ads from all social networking sites: "These sites are hugely popular. We want to advertise on them, but not at the detriment of our brand. The main issue for us is about control over where our brand sits."

Facebook, which has declined to comment, has already come under fire from US law enforcers who claim it is not doing enough to protect young users from online sex predators.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff