McKinley Grills Facebook CEO On Drug Sales On Social Media

Years After Pledging Crackdown, Opioids Can Still Be Easily Purchased

WASHINGTON D.C. – Yesterday, during a House Energy and Commerce hearing with executives from tech giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter, Representative David B. McKinley, P.E. (R-W.Va.) grilled Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the continued presence of controlled substances for sale on his platforms.

McKinley stated that Zuckerberg should be held accountable for his inability to control illicit sales of drugs on Instagram:

“You’re still allowing bad actors to push pills on your site. Look it didn’t take long for our staff to find numerous examples. For example, here’s Oxycodone that’s being sold on your site, here’s Ritalin that’s being sold on your site, here’s Xanax and Adderall that’s being sold on your site. These posts are not new they’ve been active since last fall. If we can find posts this easily, shame on you for not finding them for yourself….So why shouldn’t you be held liable as well? Do you think you’re above the law? You’re knowingly allowing this poison to be sold on your platform into our communities, to our children, to our vulnerable adults.”

Listen to Representative McKinley’s Full Remarks

McKinley’s questioning comes three years after first raising the issue with Zuckerberg at a hearing in 2018. At that time Zuckerberg promised to improve his company’s policies to prevent Facebook from being a platform for drug dealers.

The opioid crisis continues to ravage the United States. Before the pandemic, overdose deaths increased by 18 percent nationwide. Recent data show that over 80,000 drug overdoses occurred in the U.S. from May 2019 to May 2020.

Background:

  • In 2018, McKinley called on Zuckerberg to better regulate the content on Facebook, after his office found that Facebook was allowing illegal online pharmacies to use the social media site to sell illegal opioid pills.
  • As a result of that hearing Facebook took down the illegal advertisements.
  • Read more about that 2018 hearing here.
  • Listen to the heated exchange between McKinley and Zuckerberg here.

What They’re Saying

The Daily Caller: ‘How Many More Families Are Going To Die?’: Rep. McKinley Slams Mark Zuckerberg For Illegal Drugs Sold On Instagram: “Now, three years later, it appears a shell game is emerging,” McKinley said. “Facebook seems to have cleaned up its act, but you’re now allowing Instagram, one of your subsidiaries, to become the new vehicle. Even though Instagram has the same policies against the sale of illegal substances, you’re still allowing bad actors to push pills on your site.” (Link)

The Washington Post: Illegal drug sales on online platforms come up again: “Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) pointed to the charges against drug companies and said to Zuckerberg, ‘So why shouldn’t you be held liable as well … Do you think you’re above the law?’ But Zuckerberg insisted that drug sales weren’t happening, even as the lawmaker pointed to evidence of Ritalin, Xanax and Adderall sales.” (Link)

Engadget: Congress questioned Big Tech CEOs for 5 hours without getting any good answers: “Inevitably, when a new issue or angle was raised — like when Rep. David McKinley showed Zuckerberg copies of Instagram posts selling prescription pills — the executives had little time to respond in a meaningful way. The result is that the CEOs’ opening statements provided more detail on the issues at hand than anything they were able to say in the five hours that came after them.” (Link)

Laurence Dodds, Telegraph’s Technology Reporter: “Owch: David McKinley (R-WV) holds up printouts of illegal drug sales, Xanax, Adderall, that were easily found on Instagram. He's right – @eileenmcarey has chapter and verse on this, and I can attest that these kinds of sales were literally a search away when I checked last year” (Twitter)

Danielle Abril, Fortune Magazine’s Technology Reporter: “Congressman David mckinley is getting pretty upset with Zuckerberg over the sale of drugs on Facebook and Instagram. He's even talking to him on a first-name basis: ‘i've asked you a question very directly, Mark.’” (Twitter)

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