It has been confirmed in a statement, given to Business Insider, that Facebook is prohibiting publicities which promise to cure, prevent, or otherwise incite panic around COVID-19, the new coronavirus disease. The company has added that its Marketplace platform, where Facebook users can buy and sell items, has similar policies.
”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 behaviour.”
Facebook has stated before, that the policy would cover all information regarding fake medications and methods of prevention, or misleading claims regarding the available health resources, but it did not mention if its policies also covered advertising for its platform. The declaration today clarifies this aspect.
Facebook’s position on the misinformation of coronaviruses is similar to its view on the content of anti-vaccination. Last year they said that they would remove anti-vaccine groups and pages from recommendations and they would not let ads target users on the basis of related terms. However, doubts about Facebook policies have been raised. Buzzfeed News, in January, confirmed that some anti-vaccination advertisements already surface on Facebook’s website and did not violate Facebook’s policy.
Facebook was previously criticized for promoting misinformation in political campaign advertising. “Our strategy was to block misleading advertisements on vaccination,” Facebook told Buzzfeed News at that point. The company’s position was criticized both internally and externally but its proponents claim that a private company, like Facebook, has no place to judge political speech.
Facebook also had to cancel its participation at numerous conferences following the outbreak, as well as updating its content policies. It has announced that it will not attend the next Game Developers Conference next month and cancelled on a Marketing Conference earlier this month.