Cryptocurrencies,  Media

Facebook eases cryptocurrency advertising ban

Crypto and blockchain advertisers will have to jump through a few hoops first

Facebook banned cryptocurrency ads of any kind back in January. If you were a new coin, a scam artist, a bitcoin enthusiast, or an ICO Chicken Little, you weren’t able to leverage your content as a sponsored post. Twitter and Google soon followed suit. But on Tuesday, the social media juggernaut announced it was peeling back some of these regulations.

For now, ICO ads are still banned but other crypto-services like, say, incredibly well-written blockchain news and commentary sites (ahem!)  are now able to grow their user base using Facebook’s ads and promotions. “Facebook may review and reject ads in its sole discretion,” the company’s ad policy now reads.

Until this week, your best hope for gaining exposure for your crypto-related product on Facebook was to get the attention of one of the many hobbyist groups such as “Crypto Coin Trader” or “Cryptocurrency Mastermind.” These groups are unregulated and some have been shut down by Facebook in the past. Some such groups accept money for “advising” a crypto project. So Facebook opening up their policies will help bring all of these systems under a single set of guidelines.

Chris Koerner, ICO advisor and founder of NoBSCrypto, said it’s a positive step. We first met Chris this spring when his bank decided to make a huge investment in Coinbase while closing his account for using Coinbase. Since Facebook is reportedly working on their own cryptocurrency, we wondered if he had any reservations about a behemoth company that has one set of rules for itself and another for its users.

“I think that Facebook found the perfect balance,” Koerner said. “Legitimate crypto projects need opportunities to use paid digital marketing to promote their companies.” His own project is a good example. Koerner aggregates and evaluates hard to parse information about different ICOs and other crypto-assets. But because he deals with cryptocurrency information, his NoBSCrypto was subject to the same rules as your average scamcoin.

“We often see that bad actors ruin it for everyone, which was originally the case here,” said Koerner. “But Facebook implemented a system to more effectively weed those bad actors out. There is now a straightforward “Cryptocurrency Products or Services Onboarding Request” that users can access now to get their information into the queue.

What’s it like applying to get your crypto ad running on Facebook.

Facebook wants to know your crypto services company’s physical address and to verify your website and any business licenses you may have. New York State businesses, for example, will need to upload a copy of their Bitlicense. This is all so that Facebook can prove that they at least investigated whether a blockchain company has the right to operate.

But since this is Facebook, there are always two levels: the super-simple part that your grandparents can understand and the tiny fine print that the can’t even read or comprehend. Just before you sign your “non-confidential documentation” away, you also must click to say that you comply with the “Crypto Ads Addendum,” a separate 3 page agreement that indemnifies for any potential lawsuits.

This addendum, for example, puts the user in charge of all ad-targeting requirements. So if Pennsylvania passed a law today saying that all cryptocurrency buyers had to be at least 21 years old, it would be each user’s responsibility to understand the law and comply.  “You will ensure that all Cryptocurrency Ads are targeted or gated only to users over the minimum legal age at which individuals may use and be targeted with such ads, products, services, business, or activity in the applicable territory and only to the specific jurisdiction(s) in which you are legally permitted to run such ads and provide and promote your products, services, business, or activity,” it cheerfully states.

Here’s another nightmare example: let’s say you start a crypto business. Someone reads about it on a promoted Facebook post. Then your company goes belly up. The users are furious. Your company is worthless now, but Facebook is still one of the biggest companies in the world. If they sue Facebook just for knowing your contact info, the Crypto Ads Addendum requires you to pay any judgement and all of Facebook’s legal fees. “..you agree to indemnify and hold us harmless from and against all damages, losses, and expenses of any kind (including reasonable legal fees and costs).”

All of this harkens back to our collective hand-wringing about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica from back in April. Being online is less of a choice nowadays. It’s becoming impossible to find a job or share a portfolio of work unless it exists on the internet. So do we really have a choice if we “agree” to a button that ties us to a three page contract? That’s up for debate.

The Big Four tech companies have divvied up our bodies: Google wants to do our brains’ thinking, Amazon has our stomach’s need to consume and snack and stock up, Facebook wants to tug at our hearts and relationships (family, friends, hopeful mates). But Apple, since this is summer, focuses on what’s going on in the bathing suit area: being sexy and desirable, up with the times.

Crypto for many is somewhere in between the Apple impulse and the Facebook impulse. It’s somewhere in our hearts. Most of the moon/Lambo nonsense you see on Facebook is young dudes who wants to express their desirability for being so smart and buying $400 in bitcoin back in 2011. Also tucked in there are the hobbyists. These guys want some serious inside baseball info from a group that they can feel like they belong to.

Google has different challenges, as does Amazon, which still is staying out of the crypto game. But as a first step, Koerner agrees this is the right move.

“Google and Twitter would be wise to do the same,” he said. “It’s foolish to outright ban crypto-related ads for everyone, as this roadblock isn’t unlike many roadblocks that major tech companies come across. There just needs to be proper systems in place.”


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Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.