Facebook suspends face mask ads to stop traders exploiting coronavirus fears

Facebook is temporarily suspending ads for medical face masks to hamper traders seeking to cash in on the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Over the weekend, Facebook’s chief of trust and integrity for ads and business products, Rob Leathern, said the social media giant is “banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks.”

See also: As coronavirus challenges mount, WHO’s reputation is being hijacked for data theft scams

Due to roll out in the coming days, the blanket ban will impact products described as medical devices and face masks, of which are now in short supply. 

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“We’re monitoring COVID-19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency,” Leathern said. 

Masks of every form, whether for dust, spray painting, or medical purposes, are being snapped up worldwide by those concerned about contracting COVID-19, and as demand increases, so have prices. 

Wearing a face mask is no guarantee that you will not contract the illness, which may lay dormant for several weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that they are only used if you are caring for someone with a suspected case of COVID-19 or you are either coughing or sneezing. 

Maintaining basic hygiene standards, such as washing your hands, is recommended. A number of companies are also asking staff to work from home in an effort to contain the spread. 

As panic-buying of products including toilet paper, medicine, masks, and hand sanitizer leaves shelves empty, e-commerce platforms including Amazon have a fight on their hands to deal with a different issue — price gouging. 

CNET: Coronavirus and COVID-19: Everything you need to know

In recent weeks, Amazon has removed over one million products from its website to stop third-party vendors from profiting due to coronavirus concerns. 

Problems have included price surges for basic items including masks and sanitizer gel, as well as inaccurate descriptions for products which may suggest to customers they either prevent or cure the illness. 

Facebook and Twitter are also working to prevent the spread of false information, including fake cures, statistics, and rumors of the novel coronavirus’ origin. The WHO has branded the situation an “infodemic.”

TechRepublic: Coronavirus: What business pros need to know

At the time of writing, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has surpassed 110,000 worldwide, with over 3,800 deaths. The majority of cases are in China, followed by South Korea and Italy. 

Italy has introduced a quarantine in the areas most affected, but flights are still available in and out of Milan. The UK government is chairing an emergency Cobra meeting today. 

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