Social Media

Facebook apologises after Marketplace accidentally becomes a dark web-style store featuring guns, sex and drugs

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By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

October 4, 2016 | 7 min read

Facebook has apologised after its newly-launched Marketplace e-commerce platform was found to contain listings selling drugs, animals, guns and adult services.

The new feature allows users to filter goods by location, category or price – with categories including the likes of ‘Household, Electronics and Apparel’ and by analysing the user’s location, Facebook's 1.7 billion subscribers are be able to view nearby offers.

Facebook Marketplace is integrated with Messenger and has been hailed as a mix of eBay, Gumtree and Craigslist.

Facebook apologises after Marketplace accidentally becomes a dark web-style store featuring guns, sex and drugs

Facebook apologises after Marketplace accidentally becomes a dark web-style store featuring guns, sex and drugs

However, several items and services violating the social behemoth's policies were uploaded to the social network just hours after Marketplace was unveiled – with individuals selling a range of products like firearms, snakes and cannabis.

Facebook put the fault down to a "technical issue," that prevented its reviewing system from identifying posts that breached the rules.

Mary Ku, director of product management at Facebook said that as a result of this "certain posts with content that violated [Facebook's] policies were made visible to people visiting Marketplace."

"We are working to fix the problem and will be closely monitoring our systems to ensure we are properly identifying and removing violations before giving more people access to Marketplace. We apologise for this issue," she finished.

Some of the posts have since been removed by the social network, with Facebook users taking to Twitter to question how illegal potentially illegal listings and sexual ads had found their way on to the site.

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Others, meanwhile, decided to troll buyers, advertising a manner of amusing objects for sale using some dubious pictures.

Brands aren't allowed to list items on Marketplace, they have their own platform dubbed Shops, but Facebook has its own brand to protect and while it looks to be working hard to moderate Marketplace some marketers have suggested that the social network was "ill prepared," for the slew of banned postings and trolling.

"I spotted Facebook's Marketplace update in my app this morning. Having previously ignored the Live Video icon before it, I was intrigued as to what it might offer me," James Whatley, planning partner, innovation at Ogilvy & Mather told The Drum.

"A urinal and a swimsuit came up first and I wondered what on earth was going on, but then I remembered, Facebook finds it easy to park its tanks on the lawns of its competitors, and does so, often."

He continued: "It tends to struggle with how to operate those tanks once it gets there. Whether it's the YouTube creator rip off scandal of 2015 (aka 'freebooting') or the fake-news-making-its-way-into-Trending Articles piece earlier this year. This Marketplace faux pas demonstrates once again that sometimes, just sometimes, Facebook is surprisingly ill-prepared for exactly how people might use its own products and features. A worrying trend? Maybe. Another PR battle for those waking up on the West Coast? Definitely."

At the moment, Facebook has a 'report item' button listed underneath every product listed and appears to be encouraging people to report posts they feel don't belong on the platform. This community-based system is overseen by moderators. If users are found to be continually breaking the rules then Facebook could potentially ban them from the site altogether.

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