A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display. File Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display. File Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Following news that it was making changes to its newsfeed algorithms to prioritise content from friends and family over promoted posts, Facebook recently announced that it was banning all ads trading from its platforms relating to cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, initial coin offerings (ICOs) and binary options.

According to Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, this ban is not intended to reflect the company’s stance on cryptocurrencies, but rather to remove the possibility of scams. “There are many companies advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not at present operating in good faith,” he says.

The social media company concedes that the policy is “intentionally broad while we work to better detect deceptive and misleading advertising practices, and enforcement will begin to ramp up across our platforms, including Facebook, Audience Network and Instagram.”

The company’s announcement says this policy is part of an ongoing effort to improve the integrity and security of its ads, and to make it harder for scammers to profit from a presence on Facebook.

Facebook has come in for repeated criticism for not preventing the misuse of its platform, in particular for not stopping hate groups or fake news from featuring on it. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his personal challenge for 2018 is to “fix” the platform.

Brands and publishers greeted the news that Facebook was changing its newsfeeds with dismay, but Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson points out that Facebook has had to reprioritise users – or risk losing brand value. He writes: “It’s an age-old marketing challenge. A medium attracts a big audience, it monetises the audience with commercial messages, those messages outweigh the original attractive content, the audience tunes out, commercial interest wanes.”

Ritson surmises that Facebook is anticipating a problem with the number of sessions on Facebook per user per week. He says the platform understands that there is nothing to prevent consumers from “moving their eyeballs elsewhere”, and so is attempting to address the issue before it becomes a financial matter.

Facebook has lost its way, writes Ritson, and forgotten “about the golden goose of connecting people together”. Its latest efforts, he maintains, are an attempt to revitalise the brand. That is why more changes should be expected as the brand tries to restore its social credentials and downplay commercial involvement.

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