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Facebook bans ads touting cures for coronavirus

The social network is trying to curb the misinformation and fearmongering surrounding the illness.

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Facebook is cracking down on ads that mention a cure for coronavirus.

Angela Lang/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Facebook is cracking down those hoping to profit on the misinformation and fearmongering by tightening the rules on ads that mention the coronavirus. The social networking giant will specifically ban ads that mention a cure or preventative measures for the disease.

"In the weeks after the World Health Organization's declared a public health emergency, Facebook is working to support their work in multiple ways, including taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed."

The new rules mirror steps Facebook took in 2019 to curb the spread of misinformation about vaccines, demoting the ranking of groups or pages that spread misinformation about vaccines on its News Feed and in search results. Facebook will also reject ads that include misinformation about vaccines and won't allow advertisers to target users interested in topics such as "vaccine controversies."

The novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and cases have been confirmed in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Over the weekend, worries increased about the global spread of the virus as South Korea's confirmed cases of COVID-19 spiked to over 600, and WHO reported 67 new cases in Italy.

The spread of the virus is also taking a toll on the global technology industry, with companies shuttering stores and offices, limiting travel and bracing for disruptions to supply chains. Coronavirus fears led Facebook to call off a March marketing summit in San Francisco that was expected to draw 4,000 people. In Barcelona, the Mobile World Conference scheduled for earlier in February was also canceled.