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Facebook stops advertisers targeting ‘pseudoscience’ enthusiasts

Facebook has removed ‘pseudoscience’ from its list of categories that advertisers can use to target users on its platform.

Other categories such as 'conspiracy theory' have also been removed while Facebook evaluates the list in light of recent claims relating to coronavirus on the platform.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social media network would clamp down on coronavirus misinformation posts at the beginning of March although it has continued to allow advertisers to target people using various dubious terms in the six weeks since the pledge.

According to The Markup, Facebook’s ad platform showed that 78 million Facebook users were interested in pseudoscience although it was not clear how many advertisers had actually paid for content using the keyword.

While Facebook does offer a publicly accessible library of ads run on its platform, it does not display which groups are targeted by each ad.

Recent theories spread on social media claimed that radio towers for burgeoning 5G networks were helping to propagate, or even cause coronavirus. The conspiracy gained enough traction to cause a spate of attacks on network infrastructure, some of which did not even broadcast 5G signal.

Advocacy group Avaaz reported last week that a sample of 104 coronavirus-related pieces of misinformation content on Facebook analysed by the group had reached over 117 million estimated views.

A Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters that the pseudoscience category should have been removed in a previous review. “We will continue to review our interest categories,” she said.

Meanwhile Google has said all advertisers will have to complete a verification process before buying ad space on its platform, starting from this summer.

The move is an attempt to make its practices more transparent and will require advertisers to submit personal identification and business incorporation documents that prove who they are and the country in which they operate.

“This change will make it easier for people to understand who the advertiser is behind the ads they see from Google and help them make more informed decisions when using our advertising controls,” the search giant said in a blog post

“It will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves.”

Google said the process would begin in North America but “will take a few years to compete” before it is standard procedure globally.

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