On Monday, Facebook began rolling out Marketplace, a section of the social network that seemed primed to make Craigslist obsolete. On Marketplace, users could post adverts to sell to and buy from other Facebook users around them. It was a natural evolution for the app, given that so many people already use Groups to sell products. But on Monday, Facebook was forced to pause the rollout after it became clear that people were using Marketplace unethically. Some treated it as a joke, selling things like water bottles and bricks at ridiculous prices. Those listings were obnoxious, but harmless.
But others quickly began using it as a sort of black market, posting ads for everything from babies to guns and drugs.
Facebook un-paused the rollout yesterday. In response to the speedy derailment of Marketplace, Mary Ku, Facebook's director of product management, issued an official statement: “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.” Considering Facebook had to suspend rollout, this sounds like more than your average technical glitch — it seems more like a fundamental oversight in how Marketplace worked. Perhaps it was simply an issue of its keyword filtering failing in a spectacular way, but it does seem like it should have been discovered beforehand, especially since Facebook undoubtedly put the product through multiple rounds of testing before releasing it to the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. If, and when, Facebook Marketplace returns, this had better be the last we hear of babies on sale for $12. Correction: Updated 5:00 PM EST to clarify that Facebook Marketplace's rollout is back on track.