As the coronavirus outbreak continues, Facebook is suspending ads and commerce listings for face masks, saying the social network "will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency." Facebook will start enforcing its move over the next several days, it said in a web post late Friday.
On Thursday, eBay axed some listings related to the coronavirus, and Amazon this week said it's clamping down on sellers who are price gouging on items like face masks and hand sanitizer.
Facebook said it's keeping an eye on the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19.
"We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks," the company said in its Friday post. "We already prohibit people from making health or medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings on commerce surfaces, including those listings that guarantee a product will prevent someone from contracting it. Our teams are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency."
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Late last month, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a plea on Twitter for people to stop indiscriminately snapping up face masks. "Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!" the tweet said. "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"
Adams pointed to online guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says it doesn't advise healthy members of the public to wear face masks to guard against COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. Who should wear them, according to the agency? "Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others," says the CDC's page on COVID-19 treatment and prevention. "The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."
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Facebook's Friday post also says Facebook-owned Instagram is taking various steps to address problems around the coronavirus. Among other things, Instagram is removing coronavirus misinformation, the post notes, and when someone clicks on a hashtag related to the outbreak, Instagram shows resources from the CDC, the World Health Organization and local health authorities.
Instagram is also banning "ads exploiting the situation," as well as sending some posts to fact-checkers, blocking some hashtags, and displaying the accounts of leading health organizations when people search on terms that have to do with COVID-19, the post says.