Facebook announced on Wednesday that it has restricted the window of promotion to contents related to alcohol and Tobacco, including electronic cigarette. The new policy prohibits all interchange, transfer and gifting of these products on Facebook and Instagram. Any Facebook user who wishes to use the platform to share these products must restrict them to adults only.
The rule also applies to pages or groups created to sell alcoholic and tobacco products. According to the spokesperson, all the administrators of the groups have been contacted and informed of the decision, and they are expected to comply by the new changes.
An investigation conducted by CNN in 2018, revealed that the use of e-cigarette by young people has risen by 80%, the number which was far higher than in 2017. And it was because Juul, a Tobacco company based in the US has been using Influencers on Facebook and Instagram to promote their products.
Juul met with the House Committee Oversight and Reform Economic and Consumer policy subcommittee on Thursday to answer questions on its cigarette activities that has resulted in nicotine epidemic, which has posed a real danger to human health, especially young ones who are being influenced through its promotions on social media. The cofounder, James Monsees, defended the company, stating that the startup never wanted the underage to use its product. However, he admitted missteps and acknowledged the epidemic as a result of vaping by students who were influenced by the popularity of Juul.
Although Facebook said the recent policy to ban Tobacco promotions has nothing to do with congress’ swipe on Juul, the Silicon Valley giants have been chewing a lot recently to tread on the right side of caution.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has formally handed Facebook a $5 billion fine over the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, where the information of over 50 million Facebook users were sold and used without their consent. The Securities and Exchange Commission also levied $100 million against Facebook for failing to inform investors about the breach. And that has been the highest amount of fine received by a tech company. Facebook is also required to review the privacy of every new product or service that it develops. And quarterly, the reviews must be submitted to the CEO and a third-party assessor.
The company is also required to obtain purpose and use certifications from App developers who wish to use Facebook data, in order to avoid the repetition of any data breach similar to the Cambridge Analytica. More measures were taken to ensure that Facebook complies with these rules. The three supporting FTC Commissioners wrote in a statement:
“The order imposes a privacy regime that includes a new corporate governance structure, with corporate and individual accountability and more rigorous compliance monitoring.”
That means, there will be more eyeballs on the activities of Facebook these days than before.
The FTC committee also took a swipe at Facebook’s facial recognition software. The new rule requires Facebook to obtain affirmative consent in order to create new facial recognition models. Facebook has on Wednesday, responded to the fines through a statement issued on its blogpost. It said, “it will mark a sharper turn toward privacy, on a different scale than anything we’ve done in the past.”
So, it seems that Facebook has learned bitter lessons here and wishes to take preventive measures by restricting the freedom of expression of Tobacco and Alcohol companies, before congress sees it as a platform being used to promote Nicotine Epidemic.