Facebook Inc. has recently removed ‘pseudoscience’, an ad targeting category, to curb the spread of misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic. The social networking company has eliminated this category from its ‘detailed targeting list’, claiming it could potentially lead to advertisements that target people who are interested in pseudoscience.
Facebook reaches a monthly user base of 2.5 billion on its core platform, and 2.9 billion with Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram included.
People with knowledge of the matter stated that some other interest categories are also currently not available on the social network service company’s detailed targeting lists, and ‘conspiracy theory’ is reportedly not a part of an ad-targeting option. A sample of 104 pieces of information related to the coronavirus on Facebook that has been analyzed by Avaaz, an advocacy group, reached an estimated 117 million views. Therefore, the recent review has led to the removal of the category. Additionally, it will also continue the review process of other interest categories.
Various misinformation regarding the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, which ranges from bogus cures to a wide range of conspiracy theories, has been spread across rival social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter Inc. The company had reportedly assigned the pseudoscience category to users in 2016, noting the several years of availability of the category.
Facebook has taken up several initiatives to fight the spread of false information & claims related to COVID-19. These initiatives include the removal of content that could lead to imminent physical harm as well as alerting people to not get influenced by the misinformation by providing a link to the WHO (World Health Organization) website. The company also has banned the ads related to COVID-19 test kits, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and medical face masks, as well as using exploitative tactics in ads.
However, the company reportedly approved ads containing COVID-19 misinformation in the past, which include false claims that the coronavirus was a hoax or people could remain healthy by consuming daily doses of bleach.