North Carolina

Minors can buy booze via Facebook, other sites, officials say. States want it to stop

Minors are buying alcohol online through Facebook, Craigslist and eBay, according to a group of attorneys general around the country.

The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to the companies Tuesday asking them to help stop the sale of booze to minors over the digital marketplaces. Attorneys general for 46 states and U.S. territories signed on to the letter.

In a press release, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson called on the companies “to take proactive measures against alcohol sales on their platforms which frequently violate state laws.”

The letter says the companies have a black market for alcohol sales on their sites that may include counterfeit, fraudulent or mislabeled booze.

A similar group, including many of the same attorneys general from around the U.S., accused Facebook of violating anti-trust rules and announced a new investigation into the company’s business practices Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Facebook already has a policy prohibiting listing alcohol for sale or kits to make alcohol. Craigslist also prohibits alcohol sales on its sites. eBay’s policies allow wine sales by approved sellers, but no other alcohol sales.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that they received the letter and pointed to the company’s policies banning alcohol sales.

“We currently work with state attorney’s general offices and alcohol bureaus on this issue, including the incorporation of local terminology for alcohol products into our content policy enforcement,” Facebook said in a statement.

McClatchy news group has also reached out to eBay and Craigslist for comment on the letter accusing them of facilitating alcohol sales to minors but had not heard back as of Tuesday afternoon.

The companies have a legal obligation to stop the sales to kids and teens, the letter says, and also an ethical obligation.

“We believe that everyone has an ethical and moral responsibility to protect consumers, especially those who are most vulnerable to fraud,” the letter states. “Self-regulation and self-policing to prevent illegal and unfair trade practices and ensure consumer safety are minimum responsibilities for your respective companies. You have the technical prowess and power to accomplish basic protections against illegal sales.”

The letter asks the companies to do two things. First: “Review the current content posted to the companies’ websites and remove illegal postings for the sales and/or transfer of alcohol products.”

And second: “Develop and deploy programming to block and prevent your platform users from violating state law by posting content for the sale and distribution of alcohol products on their websites.”

The attorneys general also invited the companies to join a group focused on how to stop online alcohol sales to minors.

“The Constitution gives each state broad authority to enforce its own laws concerning the sale of alcohol. Whether in person or online, the law is the law in South Carolina and will be enforced,” the South Carolina Attorney General said in a press release.

Attorneys general from the following states and territories signed the letter: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.