Medical Face Masks are Widely Available for Sale on Social Media Platforms Despite Promises to Ban Sales
More than 130 Facebook Pages Advertise the Sale of Face Masks
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 24, 2020
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TPP), released the results of an independent investigation, revealing a large number of Facebook, Google, and Instagram users continue to advertise the sale of medical face masks on these platforms amidst the COVID-19 crisis, despite the tech giants’ insistence that the promotion of such products is prohibited on their platforms. In conjunction with the report, CfA has sent a letter to the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into these sales.
TPP identified more than 130 Facebook pages advertising the sale of medical face masks, including some labelled as N95 respirators. These pages were discovered using simple search terms such as “corona mask,” “N95,” and “surgical mask.” The review found similar examples on masks for sale on Facebook-owned Instagram, and ads for face masks served by Google on a variety of websites.
CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens said, “It is unacceptable that tech companies are allowing individuals to buy and sell face masks while doctors and nurses don’t have enough to safely treat their patients. The Department of Justice should investigate these sellers and hold them accountable for profiting off of this crisis.”
While many of the pages selling face masks on Facebook or Instagram send interested buyers to outside websites for purchase, Facebook may be profiting from the sales transacted through the platform’s Shop feature. Similarly, Google may be profiting from the sale of masks by serving ads across various websites. Additionally, consumers who purchase the masks online may become a victim due to price-gouging, counterfeits, or low-quality products.
Mr. Stevens continued, “Not only are tech companies profiting from a major health crisis, but the continued existence of these pages demonstrates that tech companies fail to adequately police their own platforms even for content that harms the public. Americans should be alarmed about the shortcomings of these companies.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.