Facebook is banning ads for hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and COVID-19 test kits in an effort to prevent price inflation for high-demand health products.
On Thursday, Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, tweeted about the ban and said Facebook will be “ramping” its automated enforcement for problematic COVID-19-related ads and commerce next week.
“If we see abuse around these products in organic posts, we’ll remove those, too,” he tweeted.
In addition to masks, we're now also banning hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 test kits in ads and commerce listings. This is another step to help protect against inflated prices and predatory behavior we’re seeing (1/2)
— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) March 19, 2020
The ban is in addition to Facebook’s announcement earlier in March that it was temporarily blocking ads for medical face masks. Consumers have been panic buying the face masks health professionals need to do their jobs.
Beyond predatory ads, the spread of misinformation about the virus has been as rampant if not more than the virus itself.
In response, big tech platforms, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube have banded together to try and get a handle on the fight against misinformation related to COVID-19. And on a call with reporters on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg touted Facebook’s collaboration with the CDC and the WHO to combat fake news about the coronavirus, as well as its launch of a new coronavirus information center with real-time health info that it’s pushing to the top of the news feed.
There’s a big question, though, about how successful Facebook will be as it tries to purify itself of problematic ads and misinformation related to the pandemic.
BCE (before the coronavirus era), Facebook would rely on a combination of technology and people, including contractors, to review ads on its core platform and on Instagram. Now that it’s operating with a reduced and remote workforce, “we’re relying on automated technology even more,” Facebook noted in a blog post. Although Facebook is still planning to pay its contractors, it’s been shifting more moderation work to the full-time Facebook workforce.
Facebook acknowledged that this could lead to a certain level of disruption in its ability to monitor activity at scale, including delayed review for ads and commerce listings, an increase in ads being incorrectly disapproved, delayed or reduced appeals and more limited availability of Facebook in-stream ads and lower delivery.
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t share specifics or hard data with reporters Wednesday on exactly how much coronavirus-related misinformation Facebook has been able to prevent. As recently as this week, ads for face masks were still appearing on the platform. Facebook has also wrongly blocked some legit COVID-19 news.