Having launched its digital commerce tool “Marketplace” on Monday, Facebook quickly (and against its best intentions) became the place to go if you were in search of drugs, adult services, and a pet hedgehog. Not too dissimilar to the weird and wonderful items found on its closest rival Craigslist, but hardly the type of fare the biggest social network in the world wants to be associated with.
So what went wrong? According to Facebook, technical issues were the reason a number of illegal listings in violation of its policies made it on to Marketplace. In an effort to better police the service, Facebook is stopping its rollout as it deals with listings on a case-by-case basis, reports CNN. However, the platform warns that such a method will likely lead to the odd prohibited item “periodically” slipping through its safety net.
“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,” Mary Ku, director of product management at Facebook said in a statement.
— Josh Chace (@JOSHinHD) October 3, 2016
Among the downright odd listings that were spotted on Marketplace were a man selling his pregnant girlfriend for $400, freshly caught fish, and a farm hand (yes, an actual human being that can tend to your agriculture-related chores). Not to mention all the untitled images of half-naked people posing provocatively, listings for weed, and various pet animals for sale — everything from dogs to snakes.
Facebook’s mishandled launch of Marketplace does come as a surprise, seeing as its social network has functioned as a commerce destination for years. More than 450 million people take to Facebook to buy and sell items within specific groups each month. In fact, Facebook even updated its regulated goods policy at the start of the year, banning private sales of firearms and ammunition in the process. Marketplace was intended to offer a streamlined e-commerce experience with the added benefit of a massive, built-in audience and Facebook’s familiar design. However, the platform seemed to skip on regulation when it came to optimization and usability.
Going forward, Facebook will also be relying on its users to flag restricted (or offensive) items on Marketplace. Additionally, it will utilize its image recognition tech to identify uploaded photos in order to detect illegal products before they are listed.