Mark Zuckerberg takes heat over illegal opioid sales on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg took heat from members of Congress Wednesday over illegal opioid sales on Facebook.Rep. David ...

Posted: Apr 12, 2018 9:15 AM
Updated: Apr 12, 2018 9:15 AM

Mark Zuckerberg took heat from members of Congress Wednesday over illegal opioid sales on Facebook.

Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia, was one of those who pressed Zuckerberg on why Facebook hasn't done more to remove posts from sellers offering illicit opioids.

"Your platform is still being used to circumvent the law and allow people to buy highly addictive drugs without a prescription. With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity and in so doing, you are hurting people. You'd agree with that statement?" he asked.

Critics have called out tech companies for not doing enough to crack down on illicit drug sales on their platforms. The issue isn't exactly new. In 2011, Google agreed to pay $500 million to the Department of Justice for showing prescription drug ads from Canadian online pharmacies to U.S. consumers. It stopped the practice in 2009 once it became aware of an investigation by a U.S. Attorney's office.

But sellers are still finding ways of posting about drug sales on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, which critics have accused of being reactive, largely waiting for activists, or the press, to surface issues and help police their platforms.

Content removal across tech platforms has largely been a game of whack-a-mole. Just last week, one woman, Eileen Carey, pushed a Facebook executive to remove "#Oxycontin," among other terms, from Instagram, the photo sharing app owned by Facebook. Carey told CNN that she reached out directly to the exec after failed attempts at flagging the content within the Instagram platform.

Responding to McKinley, Zuckerberg circled the issue by talking about how the company needs to build more artificial intelligence tools. For now, he said, the company largely relies on its security and content reviewers to take down posts that are flagged by users. He has said that it will have 20,000 people in those roles by the end of the year.

Related: On Instagram, no nipples. But you can sometimes find Fentanyl

"What we need to do is build more A.I. tools that can proactively find that content," Zuckerberg said.

McKinley held Zuckberg's feet to the fire: "You know that they're up there, where's your accountability?"

Zuckberg said that even 20,000 people can't look at all the content on the platform.

At other points in his congressional testimony, Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook has AI systems that can identify and take down 99% of ISIS content before people even see it.

Zuckerberg didn't provide any timeline for when similar tools might be rolled out to help with identifying drug sales on its platforms.

Meanwhile, overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids have doubled over the past six years alone -- from 21,089 deaths across the nation in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016.

Rep. John Carter, a Republican from Texas, also brought up the opioid epidemic in questioning Zuckerberg, asking him whether he was aware of various statistics related to the scale of the issue.

Zuckerberg has mused on the gravity of the issue before.

Five months ago, he said that the "biggest surprise" during his recent travels around the US was seeing the "extent of opioid issues."

Last week, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb specifically called out tech outlets like Facebook and Facebook-owned photo app Instagram for not "taking practical steps to find and remove these illegal opioid listings."

Zuckerberg said he wasn't "specifically aware" of Gottlieb's comments, "but I heard he said something."

When Carter mentioned that Gottlieb was planning to meet with tech representatives on the issue, Zuckerberg said: "I will be sure that someone is there."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 331863

Reported Deaths: 7494
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22855279
Hinds22625437
Harrison19462326
Rankin14765286
Jackson14233251
Madison10658227
Lee10398178
Jones8713169
Forrest8164157
Lauderdale7528243
Lowndes6761150
Lamar665988
Lafayette6446124
Washington5497139
Bolivar4907134
Pearl River4889149
Oktibbeha476898
Panola4719112
Marshall4648106
Warren4612125
Pontotoc438873
Monroe4243137
Union424379
Neshoba4179180
Lincoln4088115
Hancock402788
Leflore3562125
Pike3511111
Tate348988
Alcorn343174
Sunflower342293
Adams331987
Yazoo330573
Scott330175
Simpson313690
Copiah311467
Itawamba309580
Coahoma308285
Tippah298368
Prentiss292563
Covington280183
Marion278980
Leake277975
Wayne269942
Grenada265688
George259851
Newton256064
Tishomingo235769
Winston235084
Jasper225748
Attala220373
Chickasaw215960
Stone209137
Holmes194974
Clay191554
Tallahatchie181542
Clarke181480
Calhoun177332
Smith175334
Yalobusha169240
Walthall140448
Lawrence137026
Greene134934
Amite131843
Noxubee131135
Perry130838
Montgomery130644
Carroll124531
Webster116732
Jefferson Davis112934
Tunica110827
Benton104425
Claiborne104231
Kemper100329
Humphreys99033
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw80919
Wilkinson73232
Jefferson69028
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 565510

Reported Deaths: 11468
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson828061584
Mobile44938853
Madison36534532
Tuscaloosa26589465
Shelby26409255
Montgomery25598623
Baldwin23319324
Lee16691179
Calhoun15030332
Morgan14877288
Etowah14563368
Marshall12723235
Houston11302292
Elmore10576217
St. Clair10449251
Limestone10420158
Cullman10198204
Lauderdale9883253
DeKalb9226191
Talladega8705187
Walker7545286
Autauga7388113
Jackson7216117
Blount7147139
Colbert6522142
Coffee5962131
Dale5224117
Russell463942
Chilton4603117
Covington4502125
Franklin439781
Tallapoosa4343156
Escambia414782
Chambers3813124
Dallas3674163
Clarke361562
Marion3354106
Pike323179
Lawrence3176101
Winston289672
Bibb276165
Geneva267383
Marengo257367
Barbour241860
Pickens238862
Butler233571
Hale230578
Fayette223863
Henry203345
Cherokee192347
Randolph192244
Monroe190241
Washington174539
Macon167252
Crenshaw163457
Clay161859
Cleburne158445
Lamar149138
Lowndes143854
Wilcox128431
Bullock125342
Conecuh117730
Coosa115229
Perry109628
Sumter107532
Greene95935
Choctaw63125
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