Facebook has banned users from selling face masks on its marketplace - here's why

Facebook has banned the sale of medical face masks from the marketplace section of its app after users were found to be exploiting the service. Some people were caught selling protective equipment at extortionate prices.

Pages and groups that are "coronavirus-themed" will also be limited on the site.

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Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said, “Given the developing situation, we’re working with national ministries of health and organisations like the WHO, CDC and UNICEF to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus. We’re giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support.”

Facebook's trust and integrity team leader Rob Leathern tweeted over the weekend:

Update: We’re banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks. We’re monitoring COVID19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency. We’ll start rolling out this change in the days ahead.

— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) March 7, 2020

Facebook moves to stop spread of misinformation

Many people have rushed to buy face masks, despite experts confirming that they are not that effective and that hand washing technique is the best way to protect yourself from the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus.

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Kang-Xing Jin, Head of Health at Facebook explained, “We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks.

“We already prohibit people from making health or medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings on commerce surfaces, including those listings that guarantee a product will prevent someone from contracting it.”

Facebook is currently the only social media platform that is suspending the sale of masks online. Amazon, the global online retailer, has also been banning a million products aimed at "curing" the virus.

Facebook's move comes as global health agencies urge people to stop buying face masks as they aren't effective enough on healthy individuals and they are stemming the supply for health care professionals who need them in hospitals.

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The ban covers for sale ads on the sites Marketplace but also private posts and advertisements claiming to sell the producuts.

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Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

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As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

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Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS