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Facebook to prohibit deceptive or alarming ads about coronavirus

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Facebook is moving to quash advertisements claiming to offer cures or preventions for the deadly coronavirus disease.

The social media company also said it would bar ads spreading alarm about the outbreak, which has killed more than 2,700 people since the epidemic started in China late last year. It's since been spreading around the globe, with recent cases detected in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. U.S. health officials on Tuesday warned it's only a matter of time before COVID-19 illnesses spread in the U.S.

"In the weeks after the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency, Facebook is working to support their work in multiple ways, including taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention. For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed," a spokesperson for the company said in an email.

The announcement comes weeks after Facebook said it would cut content about the virus containing "false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest last week called out televangelist Jim Bakker for using his show to tout supplements sold in his online store as able to cure the coronavirus "within 12 hours."

A clip of Bakker and his show's regular contributor, "naturopath" Sherill Sellman, was circulated by @RightWingWatch, a Twitter account maintained by People for the American Way, the left-leaning advocacy group. The clip shows Bakker asking Sellman: "This influenza, which is now circling the globe, you're saying that Silver Solution would be effective?" To which Sellman replied: "Well let's say it hasn't been tested against this strain of the coronavirus but it's been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours."

Balderdash, the science group said. "When a new public health threat arises, set your watch: Whether it's anthrax, SARS or swine flu, hucksters will emerge like clockwork to promote worthless pills and potions," CSPI president Peter Lurie said in a statement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month called on the maker of Purell to stop claiming some of its hand sanitizers help guard against Ebola, norovirus, the flu and other maladies.

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