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Facebook to plop sponsored story ads into your news feed

The social network plans to include sponsored stories directly in the news feed, mixing ads for items liked by you and your friends, with your regular posts and updates.

Screenshot by CNET

Facebook is aiming to ramp up the impact of its sponsored story ads by including them in your regular news feed starting next month.

Splashing onto the social network last January, sponsored stories are ads that tout brands and businesses based on the likes of you and your friends.

Generated when a Facebook member clicks on the "like" button for a certain page, the ads display the friend's name, photo, and a tagline proclaiming that the person likes a certain advertiser.

So far, sponsored stories have been relegated to the right side of your Facebook page along with all the other ads. But soon the social network will be moving them into the action of your news feed where they'll appear alongside the normal posts and updates from friends.

Facebook's Help Page on sponsored stories says that they can cover a variety of items, including Page likes, Page posts, Page post likes, check-ins, app shares, apps used, games played, and domain stories.

As one example, "if a friend likes the Starbucks Page and a story about it is published in your News Feed, you may see a sponsored story about it if Starbucks has opted to promote it," noted Facebook.

There's no way to opt out of seeing or appearing in sponsored stories. Your only option is to click on the "X" in the upper right corner of each individual ad to remove it.

Facebook did not immediately respond to CNET's request for more details.

But company spokeswoman Annie Ta told marketing news site ClickZ News yesterday that "you will only see Sponsored Stories in your news feed about your friends or people you are connected to. You will never [see] a post from a page you are not a fan of, or from people who are not your friends."

Addressing potential concerns over these "stories" popping up in one's news feed, Ta added that "we want to be really thoughtful about this, so we'll have a lot of rate limits in place. We hope to show people no more than one Sponsored Story in their News Feeds per day and we'll clearly label the story. They'll also be of the same size and treatment as other stories in News Feed."

By moving forward with sponsored stories, Facebook is clearly not being deterred by a lawsuit aimed at putting the kibosh on the feature. The company is facing legal action from plaintiffs who claim that sponsored stories violate a California statute that prevents the use of a person's name or photo in a paid ad without that person's consent.

On Friday a U.S. District judge in San Jose, Calif., denied Facebook's request to dismiss the suit. A Facebook representative told CNET that "we are reviewing the decision and continue to believe that the case is without merit."