What game is Facebook playing?

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I can tell from a quick review of the main crypto press outlets online this morning that I’m not the only one puzzled by Facebook’s decision to reverse its crypto advertising ban. Why now and what is Facebook up to with this latest announcement? It seems like progress, even though advertising ICOs or binary options is still prohibited.

The Facebook crypto ban confusion

Going back to January 30th when Facebook announced its ban, because of “misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” we were somewhat confused then. On the one hand, Facebook had imposed a blanket ban on any cryptocurrency and/or ICO advertising, yet Mark Zuckerberg made public statements pointing to his personal interest in them. He said: “There are important counter-trends to this — like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands […] I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.” I think the key element of what he said then is “how best to use them in our services,” suggesting to many onlookers in the crypto community that Facebook’s ad ban wasn’t quite so much “for the greater good’ as for “the good of Facebook.”

And now we’ve been taken by surprise with this latest announcement. (No doubt, Twitter and Google will follow, since they followed the FB ban.) It may have a positive effect on the crypto markets, which have been taking a battering for several months now and who can forget that Bitcoin’s price took a hit right after Facebook announced the ad ban. That’s one possible positive that might come out of this — at least it will be good for cryptocurrency owners.

Crypto ban lifted — just a little

So now we are in a situation where cryptocurrencies can be advertised again on Facebook, but not ICOs. And before we all jump for joy, look at what Facebook also says in its on-site statement — only pre-approved advertisers will be ‘admitted’.

Facebook says: “Advertisers wanting to run ads for cryptocurrency products and services must submit an application to help us assess their eligibility — including any licenses they have obtained, whether they are traded on a public stock exchange, and other relevant public background on their business.”

Facebook is still in control

Therefore, Facebook still has all the control. And it hasn’t explained why it has made this U-turn on crypto advertising. Consequently, theories about what the media giant is really up to are sprouting like daisies. Carlos Grenoir, CEO of Olyseum suggests Facebook’s ad ban reversal could be selfishly motivated: “The reasons for Facebook reversing its decision to ban crypto ads are not clear, but the motivation could have something to do with its own strategy regarding the evolving crypto space.”

Others, like WhalePanda, a respected voice in the crypto markets, believe it has more to do with Facebook losing advertising revenue. Cointelegraph, a company that suffered the effects of the ban reports, “The posts which have been put forward for review by Cointelegraph have become stuck, and are not being confirmed, nor denied by Facebook, during the ban as well as after the ban was ‘reversed.’” Basically, it is still a confusing space for advertisers who want to boost posts.

We don’t know what Facebook’s vetting process and while it looks like a positive move from the crypto community perspective, Facebook needs to come clean about what exactly they are doing, because for the moment it looks like it is playing a game, and one that it hopes to win by any means.

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