All of a sudden, people are panic buying virus-related prevention products, such as N-95 respirators and surgical masks, Purell hand sanitizer, and disinfectants, amid the Covid-19 outbreak in the US. Many of these items have seen shortages at big-box retailers and on e-commerce platforms. The remaining supply has been shifted to Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, prepping sites, and or other e-commerce platforms, have seen prices skyrocket in the last several months.
Price gouging of virus-related products has become a significant issue since confirmed cases in China began to soar in mid-January. We noted how 3M N-95 masks were becoming short supply at the start of the year. Now prices have jumped nearly 10x in some cases; a box of 20 3M N-95 masks is going for more than $200 on some websites.
In the name of price gouging and just overall censorship of the virus, Facebook last Friday said it would block commerce listings and advertisements for respirators and surgical 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," Facebook Director of Product Management Rob Leathern tweeted. "We'll start rolling out this change in the days ahead."
Update: 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. We’ll start rolling out this change in the days ahead.— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) March 7, 2020
"We are temporarily banning advertisements and commerce listings that sell medical face masks," a Facebook spokesperson said last week. "Our teams are monitoring the COVID19 situation closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency."
Facebook will also ban ads that imply medical products are in limited supply, as well as make claims about virus "cures" or prevention. The social media website will remove virus-themed groups and pages from its algorithmic recommendations.
On Friday, Google said it was blocking all ads that were virus-themed products. It said it has so far blocked tens of thousands of ads over the last month and a half. YouTube has also removed the content of virus prevention products.
eBay announced last week that N-95 and N-100 masks, sanitizers, and alcohol wipes would be forbidden on the online auction site.
Amazon said it's working on banning sellers that are price-gouging customers.
The narrative by big tech companies is that price gouging is evil, and censoring and banning products from platforms are the solutions to protect consumers. But in reality, this is just a ploy to censor the virus and prevent further mass hysteria. The less you know, the less you panic, and the more compliant you will become too big government who tells you: "it's just the flu bro."