Facebook’s new marketplace, launched on Monday, makes it “easy to find the things you love” according to Mary Ku, the Internet giant’s Director of Product Management. Launched to directly challenge other sites such as eBay and Craigslist, it seems that Facebook wants to encourage the 450 million users that visit ‘buy and sell’ groups each month to, well, ‘buy’ and ‘sell’.
Designed to help Facebook’s users to take advantage of their connections, it enables you to browse products for sale by category, price or location, fuelling the peer-to-peer buying and selling culture that has exploded on the Internet in recent years. Facebook allows you to contact the seller directly and to “work out the details in any way you choose”. It does not facilitate payment or delivery details and it will not verify the products for sale.
Whilst this can be seen as another step in improving the lives of Facebook users, it also poses yet another challenge to brand owners looking to mitigate the global distribution of fraudulent and counterfeit goods. As with other platforms, time will tell as to whether Facebook has the necessary safeguards in place to protect its users from illicit products.
Initial signs are not good. In spite of Facebook’s terms of service, within hours of launch many illegal and adult items were for sale on the site, which violates Facebook’s policies, according to the Daily Telegraph. Guns, drugs, ‘personal’ services and even baby hedgehogs were purportedly being offered for sale. While Facebook stated it will fix the glitch that allowed this to happen, early indications are that the site will join the list of environments where the onus is on individual users to judge whether an item is fraudulent or not.
This is not good news for brand owners. Understanding these platforms, and having a policy in place to take action against infringing items is of utmost importance, as the online criminals will take advantage of any new systems to distribute their products. Facebook will come under scrutiny if it fails to properly police its own terms and conditions, and the fear is that this will become yet another outlet for all types of fraudulent and counterfeit items.