Facebook has outlined some new ad restrictions, while they've also outlined their policies on free expression - and where they draw the line on such - in order to better explain their policy direction.
First off, Facebook has announced that ads for addiction treatment centers will be subject to new restrictions, and ads for bail bonds will be prohibited.
As explained by Facebook:
“People facing addiction or who have loved ones in need should be able to find support without encountering scams or predatory behavior. Based on feedback from people and experts, we'll now allow only pre-certified addiction treatment centers to advertise to people in the United States, and we will prohibit ads promoting bail bonds. These updates apply to ads on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network.”
In the case of addiction treatment centers, Facebook says that some facilities offering such services are not fit for purpose, and therefore should not be eligible for promotion.
“Many of these take part in insurance scams and many keep people in a cycle of addiction with unproven treatment methods.
From now on, any such facility in the US who wants to advertise on Facebook will need be certified by LegitScript, which will review their background, qualifications, compliance with state legal and regulatory licensing requirements and privacy practices.
“Once approved by LegitScript, addiction treatment centers must apply in order to advertise on Facebook to people in the US so we can review their certification.”
On bail bonds, Facebook says that the prevalence of predatory behavior in this sector has lead to them banning all ads.
“Faced with the arrest of a loved one, many people lack the money to post bail, leaving them vulnerable to exploitative bail bond offers that can lead to insurmountable debt. Similar to our ban on ads promoting specific kinds of short-term loans, like payday loans, we’ll now prohibit any ads promoting bail bonds on Facebook. We consulted a wide range of policy experts, advocates and community organizations working in criminal justice to ensure we’re taking the right approach.”
Given the explanations, the restrictions make sense - it will, of course, make it more difficult for businesses in these sectors, but the concerns would appear to outweigh the impacts in most respects.
In addition to this, Facebook has also published a new post in which Richard Allan, the company’s Vice President of Policy, has explained how The Social Network judges hate speech - and where they draw the line on free expression.
As explained by Allan:
“We moderate content shared by billions of people, and we do so in a way that gives free expression maximum possible range. But there are critical exceptions: we do not, for example, allow content that could physically or financially endanger people, that intimidates people through hateful language, or that aims to profit by tricking people using Facebook.”
The new restrictions noted above obviously relate to these qualifiers.
Allan notes that while free speech is important, it’s also critical that they protect the more vulnerable members of society, where possible:
“Giving everyone a voice is a positive force in the world, increasing the diversity of ideas shared in public discourse. Whether it’s a peaceful protest in the streets, an op-ed in a newspaper or a post on social media, free expression is key to a thriving society. So, barring other factors [including those highlighted above], we lean toward free expression. It’s core to both who we are and why we exist.”
And while you can see the clear connection between the announced changes in Facebook’s ad policy, Allan’s explanation also relates to the wider debate on where distribution platforms, like social networks, stand in relation to questionable content, following the recent restrictions placed on controversial presenter Alex Jones and his ‘Info Wars’ program by various platforms.
Indeed, it’s a very tough balance for social networks – as Allan points out, giving everyone a voice is the very foundation social networks were founded upon, so to restrict that is a significant undertaking. And that’s before you even consider the scope of work required, given the billions of posts being uploaded daily.
No one has all the answers on this – and to their credit, Twitter, while still working out their own policy on this front, has admitted as much. But again, given the prevalence of social platforms, and the role they now play in our broader interactive process, it is a key consideration.
These new restrictions from Facebook are a step in the right direction, but there are still other sensitive areas of censorship that may be subject similar action.
You can read more information about these updates in Facebook’s official Advertising Policy.