Facebook’s play with smoke and mirrors

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The announcement by Facebook that it was lifting its blanket ban on cryptocurrency-related advertising a couple of days ago gave some of us a moment of relief. That is until we realised that what Facebook is actually offering might not be worth the web page it is printed on.

First of all, ICOs are still banned. The statement said: “Starting June 26, we’ll […] allow ads that promote cryptocurrency and related content from pre-approved advertisers. But we’ll continue to prohibit ads that promote binary options and initial coin offerings.”

So you think you’re in with a chance to finally advertise your blockchain-based project, or product? And then you find that Facebook has erected another barrier that you hadn’t quite seen coming.

Rob Leather, who is apparently Facebook’s Product Management Director (and now we won’t forget his name) spelled out what Facebook is actually allowing:

“Advertisers wanting to run ads for cryptocurrency products and services must submit an application to help us assess their eligibility — including any licenses they have obtained, whether they are traded on a public stock exchange, and other relevant public background on their business. Given these restrictions, not everyone who wants to advertise will be able to do so. But we’ll listen to feedback, look at how well this policy works and continue to study this technology so that, if necessary, we can revise it over time.”

In other words if you want to advertise you must submit to a vetting process. He repeats the old mantra about keeping people safe and preventing misleading advertising, but what it looks like to many is a pretext for controlling the cryptocurrency sector. Why do that? Because Facebook is exploring the crypto sphere — to what ends we can only guess, but bookmakers would probably only give you short odds on it being a Facebook token, because that is where many people see it going.

Carlos Grenoir, CEO of Olysum said: “The reasons for Facebook reversing its decision to ban crypto ads are not clear, but the motivation could have something to do with its own strategy regarding the evolving crypto space.” And, WhalePanda, a prominent voice in the crypto sector tweeted that it was selfishly motivated, but argues that it was because Facebook was losing ad revenue and audience.

Whatever Facebook’s motivation for the way it is handling its U-turn on crypto advertising, it should remember that crypto supporters like Steve Wozniak at Apple believe that Facebook is a monopoly that is ripe for disruption. That is something for the crypto community to think about — we’ll all remember who our friends were in 2018, and we might think that Facebook wasn’t one of them!

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