Today, Facebook announced that it would further try to limit coronavirus chaos on its platform by banning commerce listings and advertisements for medical face masks.
“We’re monitoring COVID19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency,” Facebook Director of Product Management Rob Leathern said in an update on Twitter. “We’ll start rolling out this change in the days ahead.”
“We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings that sell medical face masks,” a Facebook stated. “Our teams are monitoring the COVID19 situation closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency.”
Facebook will also limit ads for any medical products that imply a limited supply or create a sense of urgency among potential buyers, as well as ads that make guarantees for COVID-19 “cures” or prevention. Along with these changes, in the coming days, Facebook will begin blocking coronavirus-themed pages and groups from its recommendations.
As fears of coronavirus swell worldwide, online platforms have scrambled to stop price gouging and health misinformation. Amazon is working to eradicate “high priced offers” on products like hand sanitizer and face masks from its marketplace, while eBay has already banned all listings for N95 and N100 face masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes.
On Wednesday, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) wrote an open letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos expressing concern over “continued reports of price gouging and a lack of transparency” on the site.
“No one should be allowed to reap a windfall from fear and human suffering,” Markey wrote, adding that online retailers have a “particular responsibility” to protect consumers in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, Facebook announced that coronavirus-related searches on its platform would be greeted with an automatic pop-up featuring information from the World Health Organization and local health authorities.
“Given the developing situation, we’re working with national ministries of health and organizations like the WHO, CDC and UNICEF to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an update on his company’s efforts. “We’re giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support.”