Tobacco products are promoted across Facebook despite policies the social media platform employs to prevent that, Stanford University researchers found.
The Stanford team found "widespread" tobacco promotion and sales across Facebook. Some e-cigarette pages show product photos and lists of flavor options while hosting a big "shop now" button that takes the browser off of Facebook and moves them to a separate e-commerce site run by the company.
Many of the pages were available to researchers posing as a 13-year-old boy. That worried the researchers because the surgeon general says almost 90 percent of all smokers tried their first cigarette before they turned 18.
"We would like Facebook to recognize what it's doing," said lead author Dr. Robert Jackler. "The good thing is especially with all this stuff going on – the privacy breaches and content issues around hate speech and fake news – this is low-hanging fruit for Facebook, I would think."
In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said selling or advertising tobacco products is not allowed on Facebook. The company uses a combination of technology, human review and reports from the community to find and remove content that violates Facebook's policies. It also provides tools to make it easy for people to report questionable content.