Facebook is banning ads that promise to cure, prevent, or otherwise incite panic around COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the company has confirmed in a statement given to Business Insider. The company added that it has similar policies for its Marketplace platform where Facebook users can buy and sell items.
”We recently implemented a policy to prohibit ads that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention,” the company told Business Insider, “We also have policies for surfaces like Marketplace that prohibit similar behavior.”
The statement comes less than a month after the company announced that it would be removing misinformation about the new coronavirus from both its Facebook and Instagram platforms. At the time it said that this policy would include any content about fake cures or prevention methods, or misleading claims about what health resources are available, but it didn’t mention whether its policies also covered advertising on its platform. Today’s statement clarifies its position.
Facebook’s position on coronavirus misinformation is similar to its position on anti-vaccination content. Last year it said that it would remove anti-vaccine groups and pages from its recommendations, and that it would not allow ads to target users based on related terms. However, doubts have been raised about Facebook’s policing. Buzzfeed News reported in January that some anti-vaccination ads still appear on the platform, which Facebook claimed did not violate its policies.
”Our policy is to ban ads containing vaccine misinformation,” Facebook told Buzzfeed News at the time, adding that its policy does not ban advertising “on the basis that it expresses opposition to vaccines.”
Facebook has also been criticised for allowing misinformation in political campaign ads. Earlier this year, the company justified its “warts and all” approach to political speech by saying that “people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them.” The company’s position has been criticized both internally and externally, but its proponents say that a private company like Facebook has no place policing political speech.
As well as having to update its content policies, Facebook has also had to cancel its participation in a number of conferences as a result of the outbreak. It cancelled an upcoming marketing conference earlier this month, and has also announced it will not be attending the Game Developers Conference next month.