Amazon has removed one million product listings from its platform for making false claims to protect from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Reuters.
They also removed tens of thousands of listings that were price gouging for products like protective masks.
Italy, which is fighting its own outbreak of the virus, launched an inquiry into sharp price increases for items like masks and hand sanitizers earlier this week. And early this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was concerned about misleading listings offering fake treatments, saying that the misinformation was fueling mass confusion. The WHO called on tech giants to help stem the tide of false information.
Amazon didn’t specify exactly which products were being removed, but BBC News found that a search for “coronavirus” on the platform still turned up inordinately high prices and fake cures like vitamin C boosters, even after Amazon said it had removed the listings.
Early on Thursday, Reuters found that a ten pack of N95 masks was on sale for $128, up from a recent average price of $41.24. But that listing was removed later the same day.
A two-pack respirator was being sold for $24.99, up from just $6.65 earlier in the week.
According to BBC news, many of these misleading ads are promoting products that aren’t fit for purpose, such as disposable dust or surgical masks, instead of the recommended protective masks.
“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a company spokesperson told Reuters, referring to the company’s Fair Pricing Policy, which prohibits prices that are “significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon.”
This week, Facebook said it’s cracking down on ads that spread misinformation or falsely claim that items like face masks are in short supply, likely to run out if users don’t purchase them soon.
Amazon says it will continue to monitor for listings that violate these rules, using a combination of automated and manual review.
The novel coronavirus has killed roughly 2800 people worldwide, after originating in Wuhan, China. The number of cases in the rest of the world now exceed those in China, and governments all over the world are taking steps to contain its spread. France has banned all indoor gatherings of over 5,000 people, with all public gatherings banned in the area north of Paris that’s seen the worst of the outbreak.
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