McKinley Introduces Bill to Hold Internet Companies Accountable for Sales of Deadly, Illegal Drugs Online

Bill targets social media platforms and websites facilitating the illegal sale of drugs

Washington, D.C. - Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E. (WV-01) is joined by Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), to introduce the Domain Reform for Unlawful Drug Sellers (DRUGS) Act. This bill will ensure social media platforms and websites are held accountable for failing to prevent the sale of dangerous illegal drugs on their platforms.

“West Virginia has the highest per capita opioid overdose death rate in the country, and we know first-hand the need for a comprehensive approach to stem the tide of this crisis. For too long internet companies have failed to live up to their commitment to combat the sale of dangerous illegal drugs, including pills laced with deadly fentanyl, on their platforms,” said Rep. McKinley. It’s time to hold them accountable.”

“It is far too easy to access drugs that are illegally sold on the internet, which has led to more lives being ruined by addiction and too many lives cut short by overdoses,” said McKinley. “We’ve heard enough of the excuses and empty promises by internet companies. The time has come for Congress to act.”

“The prohibitively high cost of lifesaving prescription drugs leads many Americans to turn to the internet in search of alternatives, but a lack of regulation has enabled bad actors to market counterfeit and unsafe drugs on social media and rogue online pharmacies,” said Rep. Rush.

“We need to make sure that Americans are protected from exploitation from unlicensed sellers, who have helped fuel the opioid epidemic and addiction crisis and who continue to sell fraudulent and dangerous products to unsuspecting Americans. I am proud to join my colleague Rep. McKinley in introducing this needed and commonsense bipartisan legislation,” said Rep. Rush.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.

BACKGROUND:

DRUGS Act Full Bill Text

The Domain Reform for Unlawful Drug Sellers (DRUGS) Act is the result of troubling testimony heard during previous hearings held by the Committee on Energy and Commerce with big tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter. The CEOs of these companies failed to meaningfully respond to direct questions regarding their efforts to prevent the sale of illegal drugs on their platforms.

Click here to watch McKinley’s prior questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Click here to watch McKinley’s questioning of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

The DRUGS Act is modeled on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s successful 2020 “trusted notifier pilot program.”

The pilot, which then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross described as “a new policy tool… to remove a major channel for the sale of illicit opioids, which will help save many American lives,” resulted in the takedown of nearly 30 domain names used to offer illegal opioids online.

The DRUGS Act would build on that success by requiring internet registries and registrars to take action should they receive notice from trusted notifiers that a domain name is being used to sell drugs illegally online. In response, registries and registrars would be forced to “lock” the domain within 24 hours, so it cannot be updated, transferred, or deleted, and then suspend it within seven days.

Registrants and website operators would have the right to appeal the action by providing evidence of compliance with applicable laws. Trusted notifiers include the FDA, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, State Attorneys General, State Boards of Pharmacy, and certain non-governmental organizations vetted by, or otherwise tied to the aforementioned government agencies.

Organizations in support of the DRUGS Act:

  • Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP)
  • American Pharmacists Association
  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)
  • National Consumers League (NCL)
  • LegitScript
  • RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
  • International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW)
  • Coalition for Online Accountability (COA)
  • The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM)
  • The Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI)
  • The International Anticounterfeiting Coalition
  • S-3 Research LLC

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