Facebook Bans Ads Promoting Cures for or Prevention of Coronavirus

Amazon began doing the same last week with third-party merchants on its platform

Travelers at Beijing Capital International Airport late last month XiFotos/iStock
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Facebook began banning ads that promise to cure or prevent coronavirus, adding to the efforts it began late last month to have its third-party fact-checkers sniff out posts with false claims about the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotics cannot help cure coronavirus, as they only work on bacterial infections, and there is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral medication that prevents or treats Covid-19, although some potential vaccines and treatments are in the testing stage.

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, “We’re taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention. For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed.”

Facebook head of health Kang-Xing Jin wrote in a Newsroom post late last month that the social network’s third-party fact-checkers are reviewing content and debunking false claims related to coronavirus and, when information is found to be inaccurate, its distribution is limited on Facebook and Instagram, and people are directed to accurate information.

Jin added that notifications are being sent to people sharing or trying to share flagged content, alerting them that it has been fact-checked, and the social network is removing content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by global health organizations and local health authorities.

Facebook said Wednesday that this work to stop the spread of misinformation also applies to advertising, adding that it removes content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them, including claims related to false cures or prevention methods—such as, drinking bleach cures the coronavirus—or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available.

Annie Palmer of CNBC reported last week that ecommerce giant Amazon took similar steps, notifying third-party merchants on its platform that it is removing listings for products that claim to be treatments, cures or remedies for coronavirus.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.