Why are Google and Facebook banning coronavirus face mask ads?

Wuhan Coronavirus
Twitter / Imran Iftikhar

Hundreds of people wearing face masks on the streets, in the subway, in the office, or almost anywhere you can think of, have become a pretty common sight these days, owing to the ongoing coronavirus situation. While many think that face masks are a good way to help avoid infection, internet giants like Google and Facebook don't seem all that convinced.

Facebook and Google, which are among the largest online advertising media, have begun banning ads for medical face masks, the popularity and demand for which have skyrocketed online as COVID 19 continues to spread.

Response to people exploiting public health emergency

In Google's case, the ban is only temporary and is an effort to stop people from "profiting" by spreading "misinformation" about the pandemic.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily ban all medical face mask ads," a Google spokesperson said in an email to CNBC. "We're actively monitoring the situation and will continue to take action as needed to protect users."

No ban on hazmat suits, sanitizer ads

As it stands, Google has only imposed restrictions on face masks for now, and the ban does not apply to other products that could protect against the outbreak. For example, products like hazmat suits and hand sanitizers, which too have proliferated over the recent weeks, thanks to the contagion. However, Google has said that it is continuing to evaluate whether the ban should apply to other products as well.

The search engine giant said it will take a "few days" to remove all existing ads for media face masks, so you might still come across some in your searches. Besides, Google has warned that it could restrict other types of ads in the future depending on how the situation escalates.

Do you really need to wear a face mask?

Even though many still believe that face masks offer protection against coronavirus, the medical community is split at the moment, with many medical experts expressing concerns that healthy people buying masks could create a shortage of masks for medics.

"You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers," the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) says on its website.

Google is also trying to take down YouTube videos that promise to suggest alternatives to medical treatment for COVID 19, according to a Bloomberg report.

Facebook's face mask ads ban

Google's decision to ban medical face mask ads comes just days after a similar ban was imposed by Facebook, which announced last Friday (March 6) that it is temporarily banning ads and commerce listings for medical face masks on its platform.

Like Google, Facebook too said that the change in policy was in response to people trying to exploit the public health emergency.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook said: "Supplies are short, prices are up, and we're against people exploiting this public health emergency."

Related topics : Coronavirus Facebook