With concerns around the spread of novel coronavirus rising, Facebook is now taking action against profiteering advertisers that have been seeking to capitalize on such concerns.
As reported by Business Insider, Facebook has this week announced a ban on ads on its platforms which mention coronavirus in relation to cures or prevention, or those which attempt to “create a sense of urgency” about the outbreak for commercial gain.
Ads like these have been appearing in some regions, which are not linked to scientific fact and, as Facebook notes, seek to capitalize on concerns.
As per Facebook:
"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. We also have policies for surfaces like Marketplace that prohibit similar behavior.”
Facebook's new ad ban expands on the platform's initial efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Last month, The Social Network announced that it would boost its fact-checking efforts around the same, while it's also been working to remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by health authorities as "potentially causing harm to people who believe them".
Definitely, as concerns around the outbreak increase, misinformation is also on the rise. BuzzFeed has been compiling a list of all the disinformation about the spread of coronavirus, which includes outlandish claims around the use of cannabis as a prevention option and other remedies which may have no impact.
Novel coronavirus - or COVID-19 - has infected more than 79,000 people around the world, and killed more than 2,600 over the last few months. Authorities are still working to contain the outbreak, and develop a cure, but tensions around the issue are high. Just yesterday, the International Olympic Commission flagged the potential cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to coronavirus concerns.
Given this, it's a very opportunistic and ethically corrupt move to try and capitalize on such for commercial gain. Really, Facebook should ban all mentions of the outbreak in ads, and only sanction information from official sources and news outlets. It's a positive step that Facebook is seeking to take increased action against such, but with people already on edge, it may need to do even more to quell concerns.