House lawmakers during a hearing on Wednesday questioned Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg about posts regarding illegal opioid sales on the website.
The questioning comes after FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb last week said the agency plans to hold a meeting with academics, advocacy groups, and senior leaders of internet companies to address online sales of prescription opioids without valid prescriptions. Gottlieb urged social media websites, specifically mentioning Facebook and Twitter, as well as internet service providers to take actions to crack down on the illegal sale of prescription opioids and illicit drugs, such as fentanyl.
What lawmakers said at the hearing
During the hearing, members of the House Energy and Commerce committee questioned Zuckerberg about information that users post on Facebook regarding the sale and distribution of illegal opioids, CNN Money reports.
Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) raised concerns that illegal opioid dealers are using Facebook to sell and distribute drugs—ultimately hurting the platform's users. He said, "With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity and, in so doing, you are hurting people." McKinley said Facebook "is still being used to circumvent the law, and allow people to buy highly addictive drugs without a prescription," and asked Zuckerberg, "When are you going to take down these posts?"
Zuckerberg explained that, currently, "the primary way" that Facebook regulates content is by reviewing posts that Facebook users flag as inappropriate. He said, "I agree that this is a terrible issue, and respectfully, when there are tens of billion pieces of content that are shared every day, even 20,000 people reviewing it can't look at everything."
Zuckerberg continued, "What we need to do is build more [artificial intelligence] tools that can proactively find that content," and said Facebook is working to develop such tools. According to CNN Money, Zuckerberg did not provide a timeline for when he expects Facebook to develop tools to identify posts involving illegal opioid sales.
Zuckerberg also said he would be sure "someone" from Facebook attends the meeting Gottlieb is planning regarding illegal online opioid sales, CNN Money reports (Manchester, The Hill, 4/11; O'Brien, CNN Money, 4/11; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 4/12; Diamond, "Pulse," Politico, 4/12).
April 30 webconference: How to develop a comprehensive opioid response strategy
As the opioid crisis continues to worsen across the country, the provider community sits under a national spotlight with the federal government, states, and patients expecting hospital and health systems to take the lead in solving this epidemic.
Join our experts on Monday, April 30 to learn how to establish a comprehensive, proactive approach to combating the opioid crisis and get the 29 key performance indicators that will help you track your progress in this ongoing effort.