Facebook Marketplace app down as contraband sales could delay rollout
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Berlin, Germany - August 08: Symbolic photo to the topic 'stress at work'. A man working at night in an office at a computer on August 08, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images Israel

Berlin, Germany - August 08: Symbolic photo to the topic 'stress at work'. A man working at night in an office at a computer on August 08, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images Israel

Oops, Facebook didn’t compete against Craigslist again

As of this morning, Facebook’s Marketplace app is down on the site and could not be downloaded or accessed from the phone app by new users. Clicking on the page in desktop results in a “Sorry, this content isn’t available right now” notice, and this is true on mobile as well.

At 12:13 p.m. EST, it appears that Facebook Marketplace is down. Photo credit: Screenshot / Facebook

At 12:13 p.m. EST, it appears that Facebook Marketplace is down. Photo credit: Screenshot / Facebook

VarageSale, a competitor to Marketplace, tipped Geektime to the service being shut down.

The app has been plagued since its introduction by a combination of joke items and sellers offering banned goods and services, including the sale of live animals, weapons, drugs, and sexual escapades, as detailed in a roundup of this content by Business Insider. Because Marketplace relies on admins and users to flag violations, the initial rollout could not keep pace with the sheer volume of unapproved content being posted.

What Facebook had to say about it

When Geektime emailed a request for comment from Facebook’s press office, The OutCast Agency replied that, “If you have downloaded the latest app and live in the U.S., you should see Marketplace on the Facebook app within a few days as it gradually rolls out.”

Facebook then reiterated its earlier response from this week: “As we expanded Marketplace access, we encountered a technical issue that prevented our reviewing system from identifying some posts that violated our Commerce Policies and Community Standards. As a result, certain posts with content that violated our policies were made visible to people visiting Marketplace. We have addressed the technical issue that caused this problem and are closely monitoring our systems to ensure violations are properly identified and removed as we gradually expand access to Marketplace.”

A statement from Facebook distributed earlier in the week apologized for the content appearing to users.

Marketplace has struggled to deal with these sales since its debut in 2007. In fact, Facebook finally banned the sale of small arms in January this year, on both its flagship site and Instagram. But it has struggled to enforce the ban, according to Mother Jones and Forbes. And, as Vocativ has found, many traders have just moved to other sites.

There will always be some website or app to fulfill the demand, whether unintentionally (as has been the case with Facebook) or deliberately so.

Given the workarounds people can find on reputable sites, the only options available are as near-real time as possible content curation and upgrading banned products lists with very specific terms and images. More specialized sites are probably better placed to do, so given how easily contraband would stand out from the normal range of products available, than generalist ones like Facebook or, of course, Craigslist itself.

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