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Facebook Bans Ads For Face Masks As Coronavirus Fears Lead To Scams

Facebook announced it is banning face mask ads and commerce listings from its platforms.

"We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks," the tech giant said in a statement.

Director of Product Management Rob Leathern said the changes will start rolling out in "the days ahead."

"We're monitoring COVID19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency," he tweeted.

Online sales of virus protection products have skyrocketed, up 817 percent in the last two months, CBS News Consumer Investigative Correspondent Anna Werner reported on Friday.

Medical supplies such as face masks and hand sanitisers have been sold at high markups on platforms including Facebook Marketplace.

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

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Facebook has made a number of changes amid the global coronavirus outbreak. Last month, it said it would ban advertisements for products claiming they could prevent coronavirus.

"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," the company said Friday.

"We also have a dedicated channel for local governments to share listings they believe violate local laws."

A man making fabric face masks due to the shortage in supply caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Image: Sipa USA

Another change is with hashtags. When users of Facebook or Instagram click on a hashtag related to COVID-19, pop-ups for the World Health Organisation (WHO), the CDC and local health authorities are provided.

"We're focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information," Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this week.

The company said it is also blocking potentially dangerous hashtags, promoting WHO and the CDC in search, giving WHO unlimited free advertising and removing content with false claims and conspiracy theories related to the virus.

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Hand Sanitiser Listed On Gumtree, eBay For Up To $200 As Stores Run Out

As Aussies wipe the supermarket shelves clean of hand sanitiser, some have turned to eBay and Gumtree to sell it for unreasonably high prices, in attempts to profit from coronavirus panic.

Facebook isn't the only platform taking action. This week, eBay announced it will block new listings and remove current listings for face masks, hand sanitisers and disinfecting wipes.

On Wednesday, Senator Ed Markey wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, requesting transparency on the steps the company is taking to crack down on price gouging.

Employees assemble kits in a pop up shop that sells hand sanitiser, rubber gloves and face masks in Washington. Image: EPA

The company said it is working around the clock to monitor prices and taking action on accounts that violate its "Fair Pricing" policy.

"There is no place for price gouging on Amazon," a spokesperson told CBS News.

"We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers."