The Coronavirus Effect: Facebook’s decontamination of panic-inducing adverts

March 26, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Facebook has temporarily banned specific advertisements on its social network and marketplace considered to be inaccurate or panic-inducing, amidst the global COVID-19 outbreak.

What does this mean?

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority has condemned “misleading, irresponsible and scaremongering” adverts concerning this public health emergency. In accordance with this outlook, Facebook has taken key steps to prevent the exploitation of public concerns globally by banning specific advertisements. For example, working in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s guidance, Facebook have stated that: “ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed”. 

By doing so, Facebook is effectively attempting to prevent the spread of misinformation, as well as the exploitation of the public as consumers during these uncertain times.

What's the big picture effect?

Amidst worldwide concern for the spread of COVID-19, more people are self-isolating and accessing online platforms for advice and information. It is therefore essential for appropriate regulations to be put in place. 

As demonstrated by Facebook’s faulty spam filter on Tuesday 17 March, which removed both valid posts concerning COVID-19 and some unrelated posts, there are inevitable difficulties in the regulation of misinformation on a global scale. 

However, it is necessary to recognise that tackling such issues is not only the responsibility of Facebook. For a truly effective response, there is the urgent need for collaborative action in addressing coronavirus-related videos on YouTube, misinformation on WhatsApp, and on various other far-reaching social media platforms. With daily reports of empty shelves in supermarkets and individuals being attacked for their shopping items arising in the media, it would appear that the ban on adverts from Facebook alone may not be enough to stem panic. 

Fortunately, collaborative action to regulate misinformation is gradually being realised by other platforms as both a necessary and appropriate approach. Thus, proving how regulation in the digital sphere can prevent the exploitation of resources, stem public panic and ultimately aid this global public health emergency.

Report written by Karolina Smolicz

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