Twitter is the latest social media platform to place blanket bans over crypto and ICO related advertising, following on from Facebook in January and Google earlier in the month.
As quickly as cryptocurrencies and ICOs picked up widespread interest, the leading social media platforms had taken steps to place blanket bans over all advertising related to the digital currency industry. In late January 2018, Facebook was the first major platform to announce that it would no longer permit advertisers to promote products or services relating to ICOs (initial coin offerings) or cryptocurrencies. The ban applied not only to ads on Facebook but also to its Audience networks and Instagram too; Facebook intended to prohibit all ads before identifying which ones were actually deceptive. In their statement, Facebook explicitly referred to “companies who are advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith”, thereby sending out an unambiguous warning to crypto advertisers and setting a clear precedent for fellow tech giants to follow.
In early March 2018, many crypto advertisers complained of problems with Google AdWords; ad impressions decreased drastically and accounts were being shut down unexpectedly. Rumours circulated that Google was following Facebook’s example and taking steps to remove crypto advertising from its networks, which at first they denied. On March 14th they confirmed that this was, in fact, the case. In an update to their Financial Services policy, Google announced that it would ban all advertising for “cryptocurrencies and related content (including but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency wallets, and cryptocurrency trading advice)” as of June 2018. This means that advertisers will be banned from serving crypto related advertising on both Google’s sites (such as YouTube) as well as third party sites within Google’s extensive network.
Most recently, Twitter confirmed on March 26th that it too had immediate plans to place bans over companies advertising ICOs, token sales, cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet services except for those who are public companies and listed on major stock exchanges. This new policy comes after Twitter was forced to removed certain accounts that were impersonating famous tech figures such as Elon Musk, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and John McAfee and that were encouraging cryptocurrency exchanges. Like Facebook and Google, Twitter claimed that its motive for making such policy changes was to protect the safety of its users from an unregulated industry in which fraud and scamming is becoming more common.
A Timeline of Events
Do Marketers need to worry?
Some have been quick to point out the hypocrisy of these platforms’ leaders in their censorship of crypto. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter have both publicly praised crypto and blockchain technologies prior to banning the advertising of it. Dorsey has even personally invested in Bitcoin and is quoted as saying that it could become the world’s singular currency in the future. Likewise, Google has previously invested in companies that directly use cryptocurrencies to operate such as Storj who are a blockchain based cloud storage platform. Google’s blanket ban will ultimately prevent such companies from advertising on its networks, which to many, seems counterintuitive.
The main issue that these global tech companies are facing is that the crypto industry is largely unregulated. It is therefore easy for fraudulent actors to permeate and perform untraceable scams on the users of the social media platforms on which they advertise. As the most recent controversy involving Facebook has revealed, many people feel that social media platforms need to do more to protect their users, which is likely to be why these tech giants are clamping down so forcefully. The main drawback that these policy changes are going to have is for the authentic businesses working to advance the technology in innovative and constructive ways, that are now being cut off from valuable advertising platforms by impostors wanting to take advantage of investors looking for ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Bitcoin has reportedly dropped below $7500 in value, which many are attributing to the most recent advertising ban from Twitter. In addition, there are concerns that banning crypto advertising altogether only reinforces the stigma around it being a murky and dishonest industry, which could be harmful to a number of legitimate businesses using the technology in positive ways.
Fortunately for those acting in good faith, Facebook has said that it will “revisit” this policy as it becomes more informed about the kinds of deceptive ads that are being served on its network, but until then, it is being “intentionally broad” in its ban in order to protect the safety of its wider user base. It is likely that we will be seeing more regulation of the crypto industry in the future, at which time, online advertising will open up once more to those with genuine intentions. In the long term, the ICO and crypto markets will probably benefit from the current restrictions, as the landscape will hopefully become less saturated with insecure and fraudulent actors. For the time being, however, we won’t be seeing any more ads for crypto on any of the major platforms.