Social media giant, Facebook will begin taking down any ads that promise a cure for the coronavirus; as the platform battles the rapid spread of conspiracy theories and fake cures; that have erupted in panic and confusion over the epidemic on social media. Some of the fake cures include drinking bleach to cure the disease.
A Facebook spokesperson told Forbes it will remove 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.”
Further, the spokesperson added that, for example; “ads with claims like face masks that are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed.”
Meanwhile, health experts warn the spread of misinformation, fake cures and conspiracy theories about coronavirus; can actively cause harm and undermine trust in government institutions.
“We need a vaccine against misinformation,” said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO health emergencies program; in a meeting this month.
A number of false cures have spread on Facebook in the past few months. Equally important, they include one claiming that drinking bleach can cure the virus, according to FactCheck.org.
Facebook already said in January it will outright remove posts flagged by global health organizations; as well as local health authorities with potentially harmful false cures or prevention methods for the coronavirus.
But the company also said last month it won’t remove other false claims about the virus; opting instead to fact-check; demote them in the news feed and point users to reliable information from the World Health Organization.
Indeed, Facebook has struggled to contain disinformation since the 2016 election. Also, it has faced criticism for not removing ads from politicians that contain lies. But misleading or untrue medical claims have been a particularly thorny issue for the platform.
Facebook banned misleading ads about vaccines last year. But private Facebook groups have become hotbeds of medical misinformation. Further, some ads expressing scepticism about vaccines haven’t been taken down. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that Facebook shouldn’t be an arbiter of truth. Also, company policy is to be usually reluctant to remove posts and ads at all.