Google face mask ads draw NY scrutiny amid virus outbreak

NEW YORK: New York has reached out to Google about online advertisements for medical face masks showing up in news articles and other web sites at a time when the products are needed by healthcare workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, a person familiar with the matter said.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, last week said it was banning advertisements for medical face masks, but several ads were still embedded in news stories on Monday.

Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, flagged one of the ads to the company on Sunday and asked Google to take it down to preserve the world’s dwindling inventory of the masks, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

One such ad by Bestogoods.com depicts a woman wearing a large white mask being sold in packs of 10 for US$98.99. The same ad offers 100 masks for US$900.

Google has been working with New York for weeks to remove ads that are seen to be taking advantage of the crisis, according to the person.

“Since January, we have blocked millions of ads that attempted to capitalize on coronavirus and have implemented a temporary ban on all medical face mask ads,” Google said in an emailed statement.

“We continue to take action to protect users and prevent these ads from” appearing.

Rigorous use of protective masks, gowns and gloves are known to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, and those materials are in short supply in the US State attorneys general are probing ads that could cause harm during the crisis, as well as price gouging.

Bestogoods.com, whose website lists an address in China, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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