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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: 156868

Reported Deaths: 3851
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10409104
Hinds10279202
Harrison7313112
Jackson6566128
Rankin5887106
Lee529496
Madison5014107
Forrest389786
Jones369088
Lauderdale3594147
Lafayette338253
Washington3246108
Lamar297850
Oktibbeha252362
Lowndes247064
Bolivar244384
Panola232653
Neshoba2249121
Marshall222851
Leflore208591
Monroe206778
Pontotoc204231
Lincoln197366
Sunflower192655
Warren180258
Tate177751
Union171926
Copiah167940
Pike165359
Yazoo160140
Scott159430
Itawamba157635
Alcorn155628
Pearl River155368
Coahoma152743
Simpson152653
Prentiss151331
Adams144752
Grenada143345
Leake139744
Holmes133461
Covington128639
Tippah128430
George128325
Winston125526
Hancock124341
Wayne121323
Marion119446
Attala119334
Tishomingo112443
Chickasaw109432
Newton108229
Tallahatchie98127
Clay94727
Clarke93653
Jasper85223
Stone80615
Calhoun78713
Walthall77629
Montgomery76926
Carroll74115
Lawrence73814
Smith73216
Yalobusha73128
Noxubee72717
Perry68326
Tunica62619
Greene61522
Jefferson Davis59017
Claiborne58916
Amite56615
Humphreys54719
Benton50018
Quitman5007
Webster46714
Kemper45018
Wilkinson40522
Jefferson37112
Choctaw3617
Franklin3555
Sharkey32417
Issaquena1204
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 252900

Reported Deaths: 3638
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33526501
Mobile20103365
Madison13723151
Tuscaloosa13366154
Montgomery12552236
Shelby1079677
Baldwin9051137
Lee787266
Morgan696451
Calhoun6598121
Etowah656167
Marshall647357
Houston541038
DeKalb498137
Cullman462443
St. Clair441956
Limestone440445
Lauderdale426754
Elmore421164
Walker3735111
Talladega370157
Jackson340423
Colbert332042
Blount306140
Autauga281842
Franklin257434
Coffee250015
Dale239054
Dallas231532
Chilton228939
Russell22663
Covington225034
Escambia202331
Tallapoosa187291
Chambers182750
Pike161514
Clarke161019
Marion144736
Winston137523
Lawrence133436
Pickens126518
Geneva12508
Marengo123424
Bibb120418
Barbour118911
Butler118642
Randolph105522
Cherokee105124
Hale98131
Fayette94616
Washington93219
Clay92824
Henry8896
Monroe83011
Lowndes80929
Cleburne78814
Macon75522
Crenshaw72230
Bullock70119
Lamar7018
Conecuh70014
Perry6916
Wilcox64818
Sumter58622
Greene43518
Choctaw43114
Coosa3664
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