A week before Christmas, Facebook announced its newest major prohibition: no more branded content that promotes vaping, tobacco, alcohol, and diet supplements.

2019 was the year of ‘techlash’ and nobody had a bigger target on their back than Facebook. When the smoking age was recently raised to 21, Facebook had a well-lit opportunity to merge onto the moral high road. So they did.

Facebook and Instagram have been under fire for allowing influencers to run amok on their platform, so they’ve been making changes. Here are three ways this new ban cracks down even further:

  • Closing a loophole that influencers have abused. Facebook and Instagram banned tobacco-related ads several years ago—but this didn’t stop influencers from sharing (and sponsoring) their own posts featuring the same kinds of products. The loophole is obvious: restricted companies couldn’t advertise directly, but they could pay influencers to advertise for them. Plugging that loophole seems fair to Facebook, except that this move also means…
  • Setting precedent for other limitations on influencer content. Curiously, most of the items on Facebook’s latest list—vaping, tobacco, alcohol, and diet supplements—are substances that cross the blood-brain barrier (AKA the threshold between “food” and “candy”). In a small way, these kinds of restrictions are Facebook’s version of Prohibition—and whether or not Facebook (gradually) follows the regulatory patterns of government, this move does make it easier for them to curtail other things later. Which, in turn, means Facebook has the ability to…
  • Protect its business model in the long run. Put simply: Facebook doesn’t have much incentive to allow influencers to advertise anything, much less products it has banned from its traditional ad platform. Facebook has pivoted over the years and will need to stay limber in the future, but their core money-maker is advertising in its more traditional “you give Zuck money, Zuck gives you traffic, leads, and customers” form — and they’re not going to change that anytime soon.

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