Facebook is changing the way it views its role as a moderator on the massive social media platform visited by more than 2 billion users every month.
The social media giant announced Thursday that it will require prior approval for all drug-treatment facilities to advertise on its platform and will no longer allow advertisements of any kind from bail bondsmen. These new policies apply to advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger and go into effect immediately.
The move is the latest in a series of decisions by Facebook to further control what appears on its platform in an effort to make the site a safer place for users, raising questions of the responsibility the company should have to police its own platform.
Facebook says the decision is part of its ongoing work to support those who struggle with substance use, as well as efforts to prohibit predatory and misleading advertising.
“Today’s announcement is the next step in our efforts to support our community on Facebook in response to rising addiction rates in the US. We’re expanding our policies to restrict ads for drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers because when facing addiction, people should be able to avoid scams and predatory behavior as they find support for themselves and loved ones in need,” Facebook spokeswoman Avra Siegel said in a prepared statement. Siegel is on the policy team coordinating Facebook’s effort to respond to the opioid epidemic.
With the country’s opioid crisis hitting Ohio head on, Facebook said it felt a responsibility to further monitor what takes place on its site and who posts what.
The company has come under fire for lack of regulation in recent months. And with Facebook’s $120 billion drop in valuation last week — the largest plunge ever by a publicly traded company — the new policies come at a time when CEO Mark Zuckerburg faces increased public scrutiny.
From Russian election meddling to discrimination, there’s a larger reckoning going on about harms and scams that can come from the constantly evolving online ad ecosystem.
Google has already banned advertisements for bail bondsmen and cryptocurrencies. Facebook is following suit, though it did reverse some of the bans on cryptocurrencies earlier this summer and implemented an application process similar to the one announced Thursday by Facebook. Together, the two internet giants dominate the field of online advertising and are primarily self-policed when it comes to regulating content.
The prior-approval and certification process for drug-treatment facility advertisements will go through a third-party called LegitScript.
LegitScript will review information regarding drug-treatment facilities, including proper compliance and licensure, best practices, transparency and privacy.
Certification costs $995 for a small facility plus $1,995 annually. After LegitScript certifies the center, the treatment facility still will have to apply to advertise on Facebook, which will review the certification.
Facebook says it relied on feedback from industry and policy experts and advocates in the respective fields when determining whether or not to allow ads from possibly predatory industries.