Facebook needs to “do a better job policing on our service,” admitted CEO Mark Zuckerberg as he appeared before the Congress on April 11, 2018 in the wake of the recently exposed Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which the social media giant allowed the data firm to access personal information of its 87 million users. In the process of clarifying the organization’s stand over the controversy, the Facebook boss was also questioned about illegal online opioid business thriving on the medium.
The illegal online sale of opioids has become a major concern for the United States. Zuckerberg’s grilling happened a week after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calling on social media giants to deal with the rampant online opioid trade.
The Republican Rep. from West Virginia, David McKinley, asked the Facebook co-founder if he agreed with the statement, “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.”
In his reply, Zuckerberg said that the company needed to build more artificial intelligence (AI) tools to address the problem. However, at another time, he claimed that Facebook’s AI system was capable of identifying and taking down approximately 99 percent of ISIS content before people could see it.
At present, Facebook is majorly dependent on its security and content reviewers who can take down posts that are flagged by users. Though the company plans to put 20,000 people by the end of 2018 to handle this responsibility, he said that even this much of human resource would not be enough to look at all the content being posted via the platform.
“I think that there are a number of areas of content that we need to do a better job policing on our service… Today the primary way that content regulation works here … is that people can share what they want on the service, and then if someone sees an issue they flag it to us, and then we will review it,” he said.
Instagram acts after FDA warning
The issue of illicit drug sales on various online platforms is not new. However, taking the initiative to block such sellers, Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, recently removed posts related to hashtags with drug names including #fentanyl, #oxycontin, #opioids and more. The move came after the FDA chief criticized social media companies for not taking practical steps to prevent their sites from being used to sell opioids.
“Although the sale of prescription opioids without a valid prescription is illegal, the FDA continues to see these products in the packages we inspect. And we find offers to purchase opioids all over social media and the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, and Bing,” Gottlieb had said at the recently held National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
However, despite pressure, Zuckerberg did not promise any timeline for the launch of tools that might help in better identification of the sale of illicit drugs on the platform. It is important for the federal government to continue taking the necessary steps to curb the number of drug overdose deaths in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 63,600 people died due to drug overdose in 2016.
Addiction can be cured
Easy availability of drugs is a major factor leading to its abuse and consequent addiction. Dependence on any substance can be debilitating. Therefore, one must seek professional drug abuse help immediately. The first step to attain recovery is detox rehab centers that offer comprehensive detox impatient programs. An effective detox program helps in removing unwanted substances from the body and curb the withdrawal symptoms.
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