Facebook is banning ads selling medical face masks in the coming days to avoid the exploitation of panic around COVID-19, the company’s director of product management Rob Leathern, announced on March 7. This includes ads on Instagram, which Facebook owns, and commerce listings on Marketplace. This is also an attempt to prevent the inflation of prices of face masks and overcome their short supply, as Instagram head Adam Mosseri’s tweet suggests. Twitter enacted a similar policy on March 4.
Other changes might be announced if Facebook sees “people trying to exploit this public health emergency”. If Facebook misses any such ad, users can flag it to Facebook using the drop-down menu on the top right corner of the ad, Leathern said.
Update: We’re banning ads and commerce listings selling 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. We’ll start rolling out this change in the days ahead.
— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) March 7, 2020
Leathern said that this is a global policy. If such ads go live, they will be shown in Facebook’s Ads Library, he said, but users can always flag these ads to Facebook, but it is unclear what will happen to the ads that are proactively removed by Facebook. Facebook has also reached out to other companies “to explore further threat sharing”, Leathern disclosed.
Instagram is also actively removing misinformation related to COVID-19, and tapping hashtags related to the coronavirus shows resources from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organisation (WHO), and local health authorities, as it does on Twitter. On searching for coronavirus on Instagram, accounts of WHO, UNICEF pop up first in results. The platform is also blocking and restricting hashtags that can be used to spread misinformation.