Over the past 18 months, social media goliath Facebook has come under fire for its seeming inability (or reluctance) to combat issues of fake news. The echo chamber that social media has become responsible for – in which users friend and follow people of similar taste and thought – circulating information that is widely distributed and rarely challenged, is one of the most radical division points in modern culture. As a result, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made a point of going into 2018 with a focused plan of action.
Now Facebook is looking more broadly at what exactly constitutes disruptive or deceptive promotional materials, and they’ve zeroed in on a surprising new target: cryptocurrencies. The site announced that it is officially banning all advertisements that promote crypto brands, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, and more. This is not a targeted purging; no advertiser, even established enterprises that operate a legitimate and legal business, will be allowed to promote anything that fits within the cryptocurrency realm. According to a blog post announcing the move, Facebook will even prohibit the advertisement of initial coin offerings (ICO), which allow buyers a share of a company’s valuation, but traded in cryptocurrency instead of typical market offerings.
While cryptocurrency remains on the fringes, even after months of breathless coverage, some have managed to puncture through to the mainstream often using Facebook advertising platforms. Self-proclaimed crypto-genius James Altucher has managed to make a name for himself through online ads that have appeared with enough frequency to turn him into a meme. Still, even for someone as established as Altucher (“established” is a relative term for the world of cryptocurrency), advertisements of the sort that have made his name will no longer be allowed on Facebook.
Status Update: Blocked
Any violation of the company’s newly revised policies will result in a permanent ban from Facebook’s core app, which, at an estimated 2.07 billion users is a hefty audience to lose entirely. Additionally, banishment from Facebook also means being permanently ejected from satellite spaces that the company either owns or works through, such as Instagram or Audience Network, the company that places advertisements on third-party apps which Facebook uses for their site.
The motivation for Facebook’s revised policy plan is largely centered around bad PR in the aftermath of the 2016 election. But the hubbub surrounding cryptocurrency is in many ways its own motivation. The boom—or what some might call “a bubble”—has led to some questionable behavior and suspicious market drivers. Some have even gone so far as to scam buyers or unsophisticated investors, which leads to fluctuating value.
In a sense, the limits on advertising cryptocurrency could be a good way of escaping the volatility that is currently preying on the market. With fewer people taking advantage of a new industry, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will have the ability to flatline a bit instead of jumping up and down in value, their rollercoaster worth being endlessly reported as people wait for evidence that the field is a joke.
ICOs have been pushing prospective buyers to purchase cryptocurrency before it launches, making its worth contingent on the number of people that they successfully lured into investing. This shift in investment strategy has all the makings of a scam which are illegal, however gambling on failed investments, sadly, is not. The market thrives on well-intentioned and well-educated investors, but crypto has yet to create the avenue for people to be fully informed before giving into the hype. After a year in which Facebook was repeatedly held accountable for distributing content that fooled their users, whether with or without intention, their move to banish advertisers comes as a potential advantage for crypto’s longevity.
It doesn’t hurt that Facebook’s board of directors includes Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel, whose individual firms have been prominent backers of cryptocurrency. The head of Facebook Messenger, David Marcus, is on the board of Coinbase, a popular crypto-exchange platform. With declining faith in crypto, all three men would find themselves on the short end of the stick, meaning that a small business decision for Facebook has big ramifications for some of its most prominent shareholders. But in order to stabilize the future of cryptocurrency, perhaps the world’s biggest social media platform needs to be the one to put its foot down, and hard.