Facebook (FB) said Tuesday that it's banning advertisements for bitcoin, initial coin offerings and others related to cryptocurrencies, caught many investors and the financial industry by surprise.
The policy, which also applies to "binary options," which may or may not provide a payout to investors, is designed to protect Facebook's more than 1 billion users from "ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices," according to a blog post from Rob Leathern, a Facebook product management director.
"We want people to continue to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception," he wrote. "That said, there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith."
Facebook, which has come under fire for failing to weed out Russian operatives from its site during the presidential election, is making the policy intentionally broad as it works better detect deceptive and misleading ads. It plans to revisit the issue as its practices improve, the company said.
It remains unclear whether this will have any impact on cryptocurrencies. CEO Joel Leslie of Propify, which uses the blockchain technology that powers bitcoin to market real estate, noted that much of the ICOs' promotion occurs on other sites such as Reddit and Twitter (TWTR)
"The decision by Facebook could have an unfair effect on those companies looking to launch an ICO or in the middle of one, from a branding perspective," he said in a statement. "However, consumers are not the target for most legitimate ICOs."
Even so, ads that violate Facebook's policy will be banned from the social network's mobile app, its Instagram site and its Audience Network ad network, which provides ads on third-party apps.
Bitcoin's price on Coinbase is at $10,112.79, down more than 9 percent since yesterday.