After banning ads for masks on its platform in March, Facebook will begin allowing advertisers to promote non-medical masks starting Wednesday.
In March, Facebook said it would prohibit ads for medical face masks like N95 respirators. It also prohibited masks that resemble medical masks, like face covers and bandanas. The company said this was an effort to protect against scams, misleading medical claims, medical supply shortages, hoarding and inflated prices, practices that proliferated across digital ad networks and online stores as people tried to buy masks to protect against the coronavirus — along with scammers trying to profit off them.
In mid-March, Facebook also said it was banning ads and commerce listings for hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and Covid-19 test kits. Those items will still be prohibited from advertising.
"Many health authorities now advise wearing non-medical masks – and in some places masks are required for activities like taking public transportation or visiting a store – and we've seen people and businesses of all sizes working to fill this need," Rob Leathern, Facebook's director of product management, said in a blog post Facebook planned to publish Wednesday.
Facebook said mask ads will now be allowed for those that are non-medical grade, provided they're not marketed with medical, health or prevention claims. The company said non-medical masks include those that are handmade, reusable, created out of household fabrics or refashioned materials.
The company also stipulated that advertisers would need a history of advertising on Faecbook for at least four months in order to promote non-medical masks.
In the earlier days of the pandemic, medical experts have tried to warn against healthy people buying masks so it doesn't create an equipment shortage for medical workers as people scrambled to purchase them. But the guidance around masks has changed: The CDC has since recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 created a major challenge for online ad companies that have been heavily criticized in recent years for allowing the spread of misinformation, largely related to political issues and elections.