Over the last few years, Facebook has decided to expand into becoming a marketplace and has seen great success in this endeavor, quickly becoming the most popular marketplace in some places around the world due to its practicality.
The downside to this is that it adds one more area to Facebook’s already overreaching control, allowing them to dictate and enforce their standards on the world in an additional way, this time involving their livelihood.
If you’ve posted something in the past that Facebook didn’t like, that can affect your ability to sell things on the platform, even if you’re doing so honestly and legally.
Another common issue that’s come up is animal products. Many Inuit crafters in the Northern regions of Canada create clothing and accessories using the furs or skins of local animals like seals. They’ve participated in this practice for hundreds of years, in complete compliance with surrounding laws.
Nevertheless, since as far back as December of 2017 they have been finding their sales posts getting rejected by Facebook for violating their commerce policies. In 2017, 2018 and even 2019 Facebook published statements apologizing for the rejection of such posts, calling it a “mistake”, even though it clearly continues to happen.
“This post was removed in error and we’re very sorry about the mistake. Our team processes millions of reports each week and sometimes we get things wrong,” said a Facebook spokesperson at the time.
In August 2019, Facebook updated its commerce policies to reflect that the sale of endangered and threatened species and their parts is prohibited, which completely contradicts their earlier statements that the removal of those posts was a mistake.
The updated policies mention seals directly: “While we recognize that not all seal species or seal populations are endangered or threatened, many are. As a result, we enforce a broad global standard to ensure the most vulnerable species globally are not put at risk.”
“We understand that Indigenous peoples and those in Northern Canada have unique needs when pursuing their traditional livelihoods across our platforms,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “When possible, we routinely seek feedback and take regional considerations into view when crafting policies that impact a global community.”
“With a high cost of living in Nunavut and a lot of people with a lack of jobs, this is something they can do. Facebook is easy. It’s a great tool. But Facebook is blocking people who are trying to sell their products when they’re trying to put food on the table,” one person said to Nunatsiaq.
The biggest complaint of these sellers is the confusion about the inconsistency of Facebook’s position. It seems that issue remains unchanged.