A new report from the New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs digs into how mask policies on tech platforms have allowed novelty masks to flourish. The report digs into why some mask-makers have had trouble selling their wares.
Many masks widely advertised on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon are novelty varieties that might be less safe than medical-grade N95s. Facebook and Amazon say they are following guidelines from the center for Disease Control and prevention.
Facebook prevented mask sellers from advertising and selling masks to the masses early in the pandemic, when they were in short supply. The policy eventually changed so that non-medical masks, face coverings, and plastic Shields could be advertised. Some mask-makers who manufacture their own medical-grade masks told Jacobs they are n’t able to advertise on the platform.
Protective health gear, a year-old company in Paterson, N.J. has a half million unsold N95 masks at its factory.
The company’s policies around selling masks and the algorithms that govern how they appear in search are difficult for smaller companies to navigate. Less safe alternatives like kn95 masks are readily surfaced in search, while other manufacturers offering N95s on Amazon’s storefront have been buried by the algorithm.
Online platforms are often the safest way to purchase PPE. But they do n’t always provide the safest product.