In a recent report on Corona-virus, this Friday, an official statement was released by Facebook. According to the statement, Facebook will be attempting to stop and remove every listing from its marketplace that has producers trying to gouge money out of consumers in the name of ‘Corona-virus.’ The statement was released by Rob Leathern, who is the Director of Product Management on Facebook.
In his statement, Rob Leathern said, “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”.Source
Another spokesperson of Facebook told a leading news portal that they will be temporarily brought down ads and removing them if they are listed under medical face masks as protection from COVID19.
Not only marketplace listings, but Facebook will also be closely monitoring ads that are being displayed to their users. These ads can be medical products, face masks, priced under a hefty range. The ads create a false urgency amongst consumers based on limited supply and stock. Facebook has also declared that they will be making various changes in their algorithm for searching where groups related to Coronavirus or pages dedicated to it will be removed automatically from the search results.
The fear amongst the population is real, and producers are targeting such communities to monetize the situation. Henceforth, not only Facebook but popular marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have also decidedly brought down various listings that take advantage of the terms ‘coronavirus’, ‘COVID-19’, ‘cure from coronavirus,’ etc.
eBay has reportedly banned every face mask from N95 and N100. Amazon is working on removing products that have increased their price to gouge money from consumers, like on hand sanitizers, alcohol sanitizers, hand wash, face masks, etc.
An open letter by Senator Ed Markey to Jeff Bezos expressed concern about the rising price of hygiene products on Amazon and the lack of transparency between the consumers and producers. According to Ed Markey, no human should be allowed in any way to reap money out of people in a rising sense of emergency and human suffering. Further, he said that online retailers like Amazon and eBay should have some responsibility towards monitoring it and protecting their customers from such gougers.
By the start of the week, Facebook also announced that they made a few ‘tweaks and changes’ to their search algorithm. Every user searching for COVID19 related information will be greeted with automatic pop up message by the World Health Organization (WHO) or any other government regulated local health authority.
As a direct message to Facebook users from his Twitter handle, Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Given the developing situation, we’re working with national ministries of health and organizations like the WHO, CDC, and UNICEF to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus.”
He also stated on a follow-up update that the company has decided to provide free-ads to WHO as required to spread correct and reliable information in this emergency.
Facebook, as a whole, has reportedly made a lot of changes in its algorithm. They are also moving towards removing ads that are spreading fake information about Coronavirus and generating a sense of panic amongst the population. The decision of Facebook to remove face mask ads from its marketplace was taken after Health organizations declared that there was no need to use face masks as they are not necessary for any healthy person. Also, the rise in demand for face masks and the decrease in supply has resulted in constricting its supply to medical workers that are in actual need of it.
Despite taking a lot of steps to mitigate and bring down the situation, perpetrators have still found some way in an algorithm, like ads and such misinformation about Coronavirus are yet found to be seen in newsfeeds of several of its users.