As cases of Covid-19 surge across the planet, the world's largest online retailer has come under fire for selling products claiming to be 'cures' or 'treatments' for the viral disease.
From eBooks to vitamin C supplements, searching 'coronavirus' on Amazon can bring up some strange results. But the online shopping giant has apparently halted the sale of over a million products that are profiting from the spread of misinformation surrounding the outbreak.
The company told press agency Reuters that it has banned "tens of thousands" of deals aimed at people worried about the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the BBC, Amazon hasn't published an official list of all the banned products, and searching for 'coronavirus' still brings up some ominous results, such as 50 surgical masks for £170, compared to popular alternatives costing £36.
Some of the masks are for preventing dust inhalation, or disposable surgical masks that are not suitable for preventing the spread of disease. The BBC said the masks were originally less than £10 in early January.
Authorities in Italy, the worst hit EU country so far, were the first to investigate the surging prices in masks on the shopping platform, opening debate about the ethics of price hikes during emergencies and pandemics.
Milan deputy chief prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano told Reuters, “We have decided to open an investigation after media reports of the insane prices fetched up by these products (masks and gels) on online sales websites in the last two days."
An Amazon spokeswoman said, "There is no place for price gouging on Amazon", weeks after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged tech giants to combat the misinformation surrounding the spread of Covid-19.
The sharing of inaccurate information online is one of the more dangerous aspects of the coronavirus spread. Claims of cures and information denouncing the severity of the condition have alerted global health agencies to act against the publication of these lies.
To date, coronavirus has caused over 4,000 deaths globally. Newly reported infections now exceed those from mainland China. Global events such as conferences, sports games, and concerts have been cancelled to stem the spread of the virus.