Unethical Website Of The Month: Etsy

I haven’t had an unethical website to feature for a while, once I decided that sites like the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN shouldn’t be considered. Today’s choice, however, really deserves the honor, because this is really, really stupid.

Etsy is a website that sells products from other producers, often small, home-based operations. During the Wuhan virus outbreak, Etsy merchants have been doing a booming business  marketing masks made out of mesh, lace, and other materials that have visible holes in them. These masks are advertised as fashionable, comfy, and “breathable,” none of which are features related to the purpose masks are supposed to serve.

Amy Price, a senior research scientist at Stanford’s Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab, told The Verge what it should have not have required an expert to figure out: If a fabric has holes large enough to see, it provides little or no protection. Virus particles can get through them via coughs or speaking to infect others, and the virus spray from others can get through to infect the mask wearer….even though the mask may look smashing.

Etsy has lots of listings for “mesh masks,” but a mask made from mesh isn’t a mask at all. It’s a fake mask, a pretend mask, fraudulently communicating that the wearer is being a good citizen. Etsy’s lawyers assert that its client  is “not responsible” for determining the efficacy of masks listed on its platform, and that sellers are not allowed to make medical or health claims . Still, the implicit representation  that a mask is the kind of mask health officials say should be worn when it is not is de facto false advertising, if not illegal.

“We are committed to keeping our community safe and work to actively review and remove items that violate our policies,” an Etsy spokesperson says. Deceit and doubletalk. If Etsy was really committed to keeping the community safe, then it would commit not to sell masks that are supposed to protect against the Wuhan virus yet obviously won’t and can’t do that because they are  full of holes.

And no, this is not a case of “let the buyer beware.” Health experts agree that the primary beneficiaries of masks are not the mask-wearers but those around them.  Thus Etsy’s venal choice to share masks that don’t work just enables jerks like this guy, who wrote a review on the site saying his new mesh mask was “perfect” for someone who hates wearing a mask. “I love it because no one can say SH%T to me now, for I have my mask on. LOL.” A similar creep wrote, “Absolutely love this mask I wear it where there’s mask mandates and am totally able to breathe and haven’t been stopped or questioned!”

Etsy does display a warning on search results and product pages for face masks  reading, “Items sold on Etsy, such as masks and hand sanitizers, aren’t medical-grade. Etsy sellers cannot make medical or health claims.” Some sellers  avoid this warning by labeling their product a “face cover,” rather than a “face mask.”

This isn’t hard. Nobody should be selling masks during a pandemic that can’t really do anything to stop the spread of the pandemic, and either deceive people into thinking they do, or are used by jerks like those reviewers to pretend they are being responsible when they are being the opposite. If the mask has holes in it, all the disclaimers a team of lawyers can dream up won’t change the fact that selling them is dangerous.

14 thoughts on “Unethical Website Of The Month: Etsy

  1. Anybody that buys a mask full of holes with an I.Q over 70 or who isn’t senile kind of deserves what they get. I’m not a big mask fan because they fog up my glasses but I’m not stupid enough to wear one with holes in it.

  2. I oppose that modern compulsion to demand oversight of every man, woman, and child which blames every proximate business or municipality for every loophole it can find not as though a new opportunity has been found but as though this was malfeasance not to have thought to cover every possible route of escape. Etsy likely sees itself as a platform for individual sellers who found a way out of their over-managed corporate bureaucracies, not as an over-managing corporate employers of every seller on its platform. I applaud this model, knowing that other one from the inside with no realistic hope of escape. I could imagine an argument that Etsy must become this wretched, undesirable other thing which creeps throughout the world looking for life and happiness to strangle, but arguments from the presumption that it already is that thing are arguments from an untrue premise.

    I, rather, should hope that this model becomes the norm, and that every detestable megacorp, losing the benefit of its lobbied-for oversight laws to maintain their bloated, inefficient dominance, files for bankruptcy, freeing us from the chains of a socialism-via-capitalism subversive commercial-governmental conspiracy.

    And consider that Etsy is expected to police standards in masks which aren’t detailed in any of the mask mandates! When (not ‘if’) the governments demands simply that we wear “orange” to minimize pedestrian deaths, will Etsy be forced to police particular shades which aren’t ironed out in the law? No, I disagree with this at every level.

      • There is a place for every product. Sometimes a mask is needed to protect your identity and privacy, and not to protect others from a virus you may or may not have. Sometimes, you have vacuum cleaner filters that work great but you have no method of holding it to your face, so instead of getting a full on 2nd mask to tie it on, you get a breathable one and place your filter inside this.

        If the marketer openly describes what they are selling without deceit, then I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the seller because you don’t think it’s effective for a purpose for which no one else thought the product was made to address.

        “Can you believe they would sell this pitchfork? It’s much too wide to fit in my mouth. People were told to bring their own fork and they bring this pitchfork and it’s completely ineffective.”

    • Agree.

      Plus… the mask issue is ridiculous. Early on we were told not to wear masks because the particles were so small that they could get through any mask unless it was a medical grade mask which they did not want people wearing because they could be dangerous actually if people did not how know how to wear them correctly.

      Dr. Fauci and Dr. Burks were very clear day after day telling the press “no we do not encourage wearing masks in fact we advise against it“

      The Press was pushing it so much I told my husband “I bet we’re gonna have to wear masks and they’re going to end up politicizing it because the press sure keeps asking about this every day over and over again.” Something is up with this mask pushing.

      I think I was right. Even the CDC, WHO, NIH, and more cautioned AGAINST mask wearing and stressed physical distancing. They even Worried that if people wore masks they would have a false sense of security and not enforce distancing which is exactly what happens. When you have a mask on, people stand right next to you.

      Also top doctors disagree with masks too.

      That being said… “if” it helps even a teeeeny bit, we should do it IF we continue to do what does help, “social distance.”
      Also, lite cloth lets stuff in and out but people use it. I’ve seen ripped hair with holes in them and really dirty masks too.

      Did anyone Else noticed the presses push about masks at all the early task force meetings every day? multiple times they asked… did anyone else notice how weird that was?

  3. People who buy those masks know exactly what they are doing. It’s he middle finger version of mask wearing, supported by the comments you used. Etsy and EBay have a bit of leeway in their selling as they’re more of a digital flea market and craft fair than a store. They aren’t actually selling products themselves. They’re just selling a spot for you to sell your own.

    • JM.

      This is neither a caveat emptor nor caveat venditor situation. People buy these masks to meet compliance regulations.

      No one buys these products as protective devices. These masks are as effective as any cloth masks that are regularly worn improperly. Blaming a web site that sells a product that people want to buy – knowing damn full well that these masks dont protect anyone – is wrong. These masks are not patent medicines with questionable ingredients. Anyone can tell this product is not going to prevent disease transmission and are not bought for that purpose.

      The ethical burden should be on the purchaser not the selling platform. Etsy is the equivalent of that vending machine that sells a variety of products that appeal to a narrow consumer niche.

  4. Interesting anecdote: I bought my one and only mask from Etsy, and it is a very good one. Made in the USA out of simple fabric, comfortable and well made.

    But your point remains absolutely on point. The fact that they may provide quality merchandise does not excuse blithely providing ineffective merchandise in an attempt to circumvent their purpose in the name of comfort.

  5. Weird I commented but I guess it didn’t go through… unless Jack didn’t like my comment?
    You’d not delete one that sorta disagrees but darn… I thought it was such a good post!

    • No don’t get paranoid on me, mm. Was that the post you were referring to that came in just after this one? I checked…nothing in spam. You should know that I never ding comments from anyone once they have been approved for the comments ring once.

      • No, it was a different one. Maybe on my phone it gof weird. BTW, I’m carcarwhite somehow WordPress locked me out a month ago or so.

        Just so you know I’m still here!

        Jack, have you heard of AGENDA 21 and seen the website they have? Sorta weird how this covid virus was in there. I just learned of this minutes ago so don’t know much else atm.

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