Facebook has issued a moratorium on ads for medical face masks and other products claiming to prevent people from contracting coronavirus, deeming such listings as exploiting the public-health emergency.
The ban, which will be rolled out in the next few days, covers ads on Facebook and listings on the Marketplace platform, where they are already prohibited. The news comes the week after the Advertising Standards Authority banned two ads promoting face masks that it said were "misleading, irresponsible and likely to cause fear".
A spokesperson for Facebook said that it was monitoring the situation closely and would "make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public-health emergency for their own benefit".
Facebook said that it was also stopping ads for other medical products, such as hand sanitiser, that "create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention around" the virus.
The company added that it had a dedicated channel for local governments to share listings they believe violate these policies and is encouraging users to report offending ads. Facebook said that it would also remove coronavirus-related Facebook groups and pages from recommendations.
Medical experts have dismissed the efficacy of face masks and instead called for people to be aware of their personal hygiene: washing their hands regularly and sneezing or coughing into a handkerchief or tissue. Other digital giants, including eBay and Amazon, have also banned ads for face masks.
Rob Leathern, who leads Facebook’s trust and integrity team covering advertising, tweeted an update over the weekend:
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
Last week, Facebook announced the closure of its London offices after an employee contracted the virus. The offices reopened today.