Digital Citizens Alliance Calls on U.S. Department of Justice to Halt Advertising of Medical Masks, Coronavirus Test Kits and “Vaccines” on Facebook and Instagram

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New Report Finds Inability for Facebook to Prevent Exploitation of Consumer Fears by Potential Profiteers and Scammers

Facebook has shown it is unable to prevent advertisements hawking a variety of coronavirus products to include medical masks, test kits and even “vaccines,” and it is time that the U.S. Department of Justice steps in swiftly to hold bad actors, who take advantage of consumer fears and anxieties, accountable.

New research from the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) and the Coalition for a Safer Web (CSW) – “Facebook Enables Advertisers to Exploit Coronavirus Fears” — shows that Facebook has been unable to fulfill a promise it made to consumers two weeks ago when a company executive said, “We’re banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks. We’re monitoring COVID19 closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency.”

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Since that promise, dozens of Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram posts, videos, and paid ads (which the company profits from) were uncovered in searches on the platforms. In recent days, advertisements for coronavirus test kits and even vaccines have begun to emerge.

One week ago, CSW researchers shared examples of medical mask ads with reporters at NBCNews.com. In subsequent reviews, researchers have found the exact same pages – even after being publicly outed and delivered to Facebook – are still up and circulating.

“Facebook is a communications lifeline for literally billions of people.  Inevitably in times of crisis bad actors attempt to take advantage of societal fear. Facebook shouldn’t help them or profit from them,” said Tom Galvin, executive director of DCA. “It is time that Facebook fulfills its promises and removes all ads, posts, and photos making medical mask, vaccine and “cure” offers that prey on citizens’ fears about the coronavirus. Facebook and Instagram should be able to do this instantly.”

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Researchers found sponsored advertisements for questionable coronavirus products running adjacent to user news feeds. These often juxtapose dubious ads running next to posts for legitimate businesses. One advertisement for “N95 Protective Masks” ran next to a post in the newsfeed from CityMD, an urgent care center in New York. The company advertising the masks, voxmask.com, actually created the website March 16, the same day the ad was first found.

Perhaps even more unsettling, researchers have begun to find some instances of advertisers offering coronavirus test kits and even “vaccines” and cures for sale. There is no cure that has been tested and proven to work by any governing health organization in the world.

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