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House Dems Seek FTC Action on Coronavirus Claims

House Energy & Commerce Demoratic leaders have called on Federal Trade Commission Joseph Simons to take immediate action to stem a flood of "deceptive advertising and dangerous misinformation" related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.  

The letter, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). 

The FTC has sent letters to a number of marketers warning them about bogus claims. 

They pointed out that an Amazon executive has testified that the company has removed a million products making false claims, but that "millions more" will likely proliferate. They also said that while Google and Facebook have policies prohibiting ads that capitalize on COVID-19 misinformation, they continue to appear. "These companies have little ability to combat misinformation regularly disseminated over encrypted messenger services like WhatsApp, which boasts 2 billion users across 180 countries." 

They did not have much faith in platforms regulating themselves. "E-commerce platforms have already proven themselves incapable of policing malicious activity before the COVID-19 outbreak, and we simply cannot rely on these companies to protect Americans during a public health emergency." 

They acknowledged the letters and the FTC's guidance about fraudulent products, but said he must do more. 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.