Facebook is loosening its ban on crypto ads as rumors swirl about its blockchain project

David MarcusFacebook VP of Messenger David Marcus.WSJD

  • Facebook is loosening up its ban on crypto-related ads.
  • Advertisements on the social network about blockchain technology and industry news will no longer require pre-approval.
  • The company clamped down on blockchain and bitcoin-related ads a year ago amid a wave of scams.
  • The change comes as the company is rumoured to be preparing to announce its own cryptocurrency to power payments.

Facebook is relaxing its ban on crypto-related ads.

On Wednesday, the social networking giant announced that it was loosening its rules around blockchain and digital currencies. Some types of ads will remain banned, or, at the very least, require pre-approval. But users will now be able to run ads "related to blockchain technology, industry news, education or events related to cryptocurrency" no approval required, Facebook said.

The change comes 16 months after Facebook first banned all ads for bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and ICOs amid a wave of scams and shady schemes in the industry. It subsequently allowed some ads related to the tech, but only if they were pre-approved.

And the change of heart arrives as rumours swirl about Facebook's own ambitions in the crypto space, and news leaks out about the efforts of its secretive blockchain team.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg came out with a new report that said the company could announce its own cryptocurrency to power payments in the third quarter of 2019, and that project head David Marcus (former PayPal president) is quietly building a 50-strong team comprised in part of ex-PayPal employees.

Facebook has thus far stayed mum about the direction its blockchain team is taking, and it was conspicuously absent from F8, Facebook's major developer conference, earlier this month.

On the ads side, Facebook says it will still require pre-approval for advertisements that directly promote cryptocurrencies or cryptocurrency exchanges, and that ads for ICOs (initial coin offerings, a form of crypto-powered fundraising) will remain banned.

"We're committed to preventing misleading advertising on our platforms, especially in the area of financial products and services. Because of this, people who want to promote cryptocurrency and closely related products like cryptocurrency exchanges and mining software and hardware, will still have to go through a review process," the company said in a blog post announcing the change.

"This process will continue to take into account licenses they have obtained, whether they are traded on a public stock exchange (or are a subsidiary of a public company) and other relevant public background on their business."

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