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COVID deception ‘thrives’ on social media platforms

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) – Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released new analysis which revealed that COVID-19 fraud and deception was prevalent on social media platforms. The FTC has said the pandemic has created fertile ground for this type of fraud.

Social media platforms generally make money from advertising. The FTC said that because of this, algorithms tend to favor content that drives engagement. However, this content can sometimes be decisive or harmful.

Since the start of the pandemic, the FTC has sent more than 400 letters to advertising companies demanding they stop spreading misinformation about COVID. This fraud includes the claim that various pills, potions and treatments could prevent, treat or cure COVID.

About half of the advertisers who received letters made these statements on some of the biggest social media platforms:

  • 172 of the letters cite allegations that appeared on Facebook
  • 69 of the letters cite allegations that appeared on Instagram
  • 35 of the letters cite allegations that appeared on Twitter
  • 27 of letters cite allegations that appeared on YouTube

For example, on Facebook Live, the FTC said that a marketer launched pearl bracelets with the promise that they would “clean up[] lung tissue ”,“ open[] congested bronchi ”and“ help you with your immune and breathing health issues, which we need with the [coronavirus]. “

The FTC said a clinic was advertising vitamins, injections and other “therapies” on Instagram. A naturopath has used several social media platforms, including YouTube, to promote light treatments, intravenous infusions and supplements to protect against the virus. Then there was also the doctor who used Facebook to post claims that ivermectin was effective both in preventing COVID and in treating patients who had already been diagnosed.

The FTC’s analysis did not assess why these allegations appear so frequently on social media, but it did make a few observations:

  • Platforms are designed to amplify content, making it easy for fraudsters to spread false claims and target consumers
  • This type of content can be very profitable for platforms, because the false promises of miracle cures are attractive to consumers.
  • While platforms can take steps to remove deceptive content once flagged, it has likely already spread to millions of consumers.

The FTC has said it will continue to monitor social media and demand that bogus claims be removed, but platforms should do more to prevent this content from appearing on their platforms in the first place.

“False claims of miracle cures may be successful in catching the eyes of consumers, but they can have devastating consequences for Americans who forgo needed treatment or part with hard-earned money in search of bogus cures,” he said. said the FTC.


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