By taking a step toward protecting people from bad actors in the treatment industry, Facebook is helping to break the cycle that keeps people sick, imprisoned, and without resources when they need help most.
Facebook just took an important step to protect vulnerable people and their families from predatory advertisers. Now, Facebook will no longer show ads for bail bonds or questionable substance use treatment centers.
According to Wersm, “Based on feedback from user and experts, Facebook is updating its Ads Policies on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network, to try to curb predatory behaviour and scams targeting people facing addiction, or those with loved ones in need of bail. Thus, from now on “only pre-certified addiction treatment centers” will be able to advertise in the United States.”
That means that treatment centers that might exploit people by engaging in unnecessary urine testing, insurance fraud, or patient brokering will lose a huge source of revenue. Facebook points out that many of the treatment centers which used targeted ads to reach people with substance use problems were rehabs “which fail to meet basic healthcare quality standards.” Facebook said that the decision to exclude ads from these so-called healthcare providers was ethical. Unlicensed, uncertified rehabs may be part of insurance scams and “many keep people in a cycle of addiction with unproven treatment methods.”
Facebook will partner with a third-party certification service called LegitScript. The service will help Facebook identify these bad actors and prevent them “from marketing their services” on its platform. Using a third-party service will also help prevent favoritism and ensure that Facebook is not placing an undue burden on legitimate treatment providers.
The vetting process will be more serious for potential advertisers, who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars marketing themselves to people with substance use disorder. According to Wersm, “Addiction treatment centers that would like to advertise in the US on Facebook will need to certify themselves with LegitScript. Their ‘background, qualifications, compliance with state legal and regulatory licensing requirements and privacy practices’ will be reviewed for this purpose.” Then, after approval by LegitScript, the application process can begin. Facebook will review LegitScript’s certification and decide whether the treatment center is on the level.
Facebook’s ad restriction is important because it protects vulnerable people and their families from being taken advantage of. In the past, Facebook has also eliminated advertisements and sponsored content from short term “payday” loan companies, because they prey on desperate people whose loved ones have been incarcerated and who are “vulnerable to exploitative bail bond offers that can lead to insurmountable debt.”
The links between unjust incarceration, substance use disorder, and poverty are well documented and have been studied by a wide range of policy experts, advocates and community organizations. By taking a step toward protecting people from bad actors in the treatment industry, Facebook is helping to break the cycle that keeps people sick, imprisoned, and without resources when they need help most.