After outright banning cryptocurrency ads in January, Facebook has now back-tracked, saying the ban wasn’t the right approach and not in the spirit of innovation.
“In the last few months, we’ve looked at the best way to refine this policy — to allow some ads while also working to ensure that they’re safe. So starting June 26, we’ll be updating our policy to allow ads that promote cryptocurrency and related content from pre-approved advertisers. But we’ll continue to prohibit ads that promote binary options and initial coin offerings,” Facebook said in a statement.
The move to reverse the ban has sparked a speculative flurry that this is a precursor to something much bigger for the beleaguered social media giant. More specifically, many think it could lend credence to earlier rumors that Facebook might be interested in buying Coinbase.
Others seem to think it’s just about the money Facebook could make on crypto ads.
In early June, The Economist started off the speculation, reporting about rumors that Facebook might be gunning for Coinbase, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchange. But there has been absolutely no evidence to support the rumor.
Speaking to the Independent, tech entrepreneur Oliver Isaacs said:
"It wouldn't surprise me if Facebook made an attempt to acquire Coinbase. Whether [Coinbase CEO] Brian Armstrong and the team would agree is another question."
Coinbase itself, of course, has remained tight-lipped, but it’s no secret they’d love to have access to Facebook’s billions of users.
Rumors, though, have abounded regarding Facebook and cryptocurrency, and not just about Coinbase.
In mid-May, rumors surfaced that Facebook was planning to launch its own cryptocurrency with a focus on cross-border payments. While Facebook never confirmed this rumor, either, it was sparked by a statement from David Marcus, VP in charge of Messenger, who said the social media giant was exploring ways it could leverage blockchain.
Then Cheddar breathed more life into this rumor, citing anonymous sources who purportedly said Facebook was actually exploring the creation of its own cryptocurrency that would allow users around the world to may electronic payments to each other. The whole thing was buoyed further by the fact that everyone knows Marcus was an early bitcoin investor who joined the board of Coinbase in December.
Much of it probably stems from the fact that the crypto industry would love to see a headline announcing a Facebook acquisition of Coinbase. That would be a major victory for crypto and total vindication.
By introducing crypto, Facebook could help bring the cryptocurrency world to the mainstream given the vast population it influences. We’re talking about over 2 billion users. That’s a game changer for crypto.
But it’s a juicy bit of vindication that’s not likely to come soon, even if the rumors were true.
The Facebook crypto ad ban reversal also adds more color the polarization of everything and everyone over crypto.
After all, the backtracking comes right after Apple moved to ban all apps that facilitate crypto mining, and Wells Fargo banned crypto purchases with credit cards. Facebook, Google and Twitter arguably started the anti-crypto campaign, so a Facebook flip speaks volumes about what’s to come because all three tech giants banned ads for initial coin offerings (ICOs) and token sales in order to avoid a regulatory mess.
Nothing’s gotten less messier, so is Facebook’s reversal really just about making a few bucks on crypto ads? Is it just about the spirit of things? Or is it our first real indication that Facebook’s future—even if not near-term—will be decidedly cryptic.