The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office are investigating exactly who spammed millions of bot posts promoting e-cigarettes while downplaying or misleading viewers on its effects on human health.

House investigators sent requests to five leading vaping manufacturers about whether they used bots to push vaping on social media, as well as provide account details of any such bots and whether their posts included paid-promotion disclosures, according to the Wall Street Journal. One source told the paper the intent is specifically to find out whether major companies were engaged in deceptive, targeted social media marketing. The Massachusetts investigation is focused on what the Centers for Disease Control has called skyrocketing rates of vaping among young people, and whether companies used the bots to illegally market to minors.

The House and the Massachusetts attorney general are not alone: Both the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are also investigating social media marketing, with the FTC ordering several companies to submit reports on “all expenditures for advertising on any company-controlled social media account or channel.”

Spokespeople for Reynolds American Inc. and Juul Labs Inc. told the paper their companies did not use bots, while NJOY LLC and Japan Tobacco International USA Inc. have also denied they were involved. Fontem Ventures, the owner of e-cigarette manufacturer Blu, didn’t respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

The Journal noted that public health nonprofit Public Good Projects recently released a report (funded by the Nicholson Foundation) indicating that of 1.2 million tweets related to e-cigarettes or tobacco, roughly 77 percent came from suspected or likely bot accounts. A 2015 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that between 2008 and 2013, of 1.7 million tweets about e-cigarettes, approximately 93.4 percent were advertisements.

Read full article here.

Tom McKay – Gizmodo – October 17, 2019.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I and many others in this Industry are not bots, the sad part is that they are just now seeing how many people this is effecting! I was one of those so called Bots” and here I am writing on here to prove I am actually not a BOT! #13millionstong #wevapewevote #fightforflavors #knowyourfacts

  2. Perhaps these are the millions of people who are legal adults and are nicotine vapers. Many of which quit a life long addiction to cigarettes and are fed up with the government overreach with this ridiculous flavor ban. I post as many things that I can explaining the government corruption concerning this ban. I will share it until I feel that we are taken seriously. Legal adults need these flavor options. We have the right to enjoy what we vape just like other adults have the right to enjoy flavored alcohol, beer and food product. Don’t believe the hype by big tobacco and big pharma. Nicotine vaping is a great way to break the cigarette addiction.

  3. It’s funny how now the excuse is that we are BOTS. Stop with the excuses, your just shocked that we’re 13 million actual human strong! Fake news got to stop! All of us had a long addiction to the nasty stinky sticks and vaping flavors saved our life’s! We’re tired of the governments over reach and these corrupted bans! We’re trying to be heard bc you guys won’t listen to us! This is the USA we have rights and the freedom of choice! We’re human beings not bots get it right! We vape we vote!

  4. The Government is wrong. We are not bots we are real people who take our health seriously. After many years of trying to quit with no luck, we finally found something to get us off cigarettes and the Government wants to take it away from us. Nicotine e juice has not made one person sick. It is the black market thc carts that made those people sick. I have been vaping for 9 years and in that time I have not been sick.

  5. Are you kidding me. Not only does the FDA send out flase information and tell ecig vendors they can’t make any claims but they noware accusing companies for making false claims. This is rediculous it’s like punching someone in the gut for no reason and them telling them if they fight back they will be in trouble.

  6. SPREAD TRUTHS! WE VAPE, WE VOTE!
    The news is being skewed by government and are false truths. These people getting sick are catching lipoid pneumonia, a type of pneumonia caused by a build up of fatty lipids in your lungs. Traditional nicotine eliquids are completely water soluble (PG, VG, food grade flavorings, and nicotine. PG is actually a deterrent for pneumonia). Being water soluble it is not medically possible for it to cause this pneumonia. What IS causing this is shitty drug dealers who are cutting THC cartridges with Vitamin E. The Vitamin E when vaporized leaves Acetates in the lungs which are what’s actually causing this. The CDC and FDA have both acknowledged this and are starting to give the truths, but media is twisting this to be caused by vaping as a whole, and not just by vaping illicit THC carts. The governments have started this mess over MSA payments. MSA was an agreement between states and big tobacco companies that forces the tobacco companies to pay out billions of dollars to the states. When this went into effect, state governments used the projected new income and sold bonds. With smoking having gone down 68% (an all time low) these states are starting to default on the bonds. The states literally depend on the billions of dollars being paid out by big tobacco for the MSA. This is about blood money. States need people to smoke to get paid. It’s pathetic. The states with local bans so far are the states that receive the most from MSA.

    Vaping has been around in the US mainstream since 2007. These illnesses just started popping up with most false cases claiming they are new to vaping. If vaping were to blame, don’t you think we would have seen this years ago?

    Also, 85% of cases have admitted to using black market THC cartridges. Some of these news bases, the people “interviewed” have come forward to say they were paid to make these statements, and others have said the media completely twisted what was said by them and left out anything that didn’t fit the narrative.

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