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It’s not just bitcoin: Look at all the stuff Facebook won’t let you advertise

No guns, no sex and no bad grammar.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits at a table and ties on a laptop.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Welcome to the club, crypto.

Facebook has banned ads that feature bitcoin, ethereum, ICOs or anything else related to cryptocurrency while it tries to weed out scammers.

But Facebook’s crypto ban is just the latest kind of verboten ad on Facebook. There are 28 other kinds of “Prohibited Content” categories in Facebook’s ad guidelines, and they range from the obvious — no counterfeit documents, please — to the unexpected — if you want to use “excessive symbols, characters or punctuation,” in your ads, find another giant platform with more than two billion users.

Here’s a quick sampling of ads Facebook doesn’t want, using text and images from Facebook’s banned ads guidebook. But before we start, a reminder that Facebook has plenty of other ads it does accept. In the last three months of 2017 alone, it generated an estimated $12 billion in ad revenue.


Cigarettes, fake cigarettes, hookahs and rolling papers. All bad.


Marijuana is legal in Facebook’s home state of California and other parts of the U.S., but it’s not welcome on Facebook. Neither are other drugs.

Weapons, ammunition or explosives

Self-explanatory. But in case you were confused, Facebook has provided an example of a line you couldn’t use: “Cheap firearms: Buy now!”

Adult products or services

Ads that promote “family planning and contraception” are okay. Ones that promote “sexual pleasure” are not.

Okay: ”Practice safe sex with our brand of condoms.”

Not okay: “Buy our sex toys for your adult pleasure.”

Adult content

Attractive people who aren’t wearing a lot of clothes advertising exercise bikes or bed linens are okay. But other attractive people who aren’t wearing a lot of clothes are not.

This image, for instance, shows “artistic implied nudity.” No good.

This one “shows a woman in a sexually suggestive pose.” Banned.

Uh oh.

Oh no.

Sensational content

Nothing that features “shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content.” Fair enough. Though you may be surprised to learn that Facebook considers this image “shocking and non-compliant.”

Misleading or false content

“Learn to Lose Belly Fat” is okay. “3 Shocking Tips to Lose All Your Belly Fat” is not.

Controversial content

Nothing that “exploits controversial political or social issues for commercial purposes.” But Facebook doesn’t want to provide an example for this one.

Surveillance equipment

No “spy cams, mobile phone trackers or other hidden surveillance equipment.” Did not see that one coming.

Grammar and profanity

Ads “must not contain profanity,” which makes sense, “or bad grammar and punctuation,” which is a little surprising. The ban also extends, apparently, to cartoon swearing, like this image, which “replaces letters for symbols to portray profanity.”

The same goes for profane gestures:

Nonexistent functionality

This one sounds like one of Radiohead’s less approachable songs, but is really straightforward: You can’t pretend your ad is a video player, or anything else it isn’t.

Personal health

A subtle one. Facebook is okay with ads that promote health, but only up to a point. “Ad content must not imply or attempt to generate negative self-perception in order to promote diet, weight loss, or other health-related products.”

So this ripped dude is okay:

But this closeup of the ripped dude’s abs is not:

And remember our friend who had a fake play button on her face? She’s fine on her own, sipping something green:

But this before-and-after image is not.

Spyware or malware


This article originally appeared on

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