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Whistleblowers Report Facebook for Ignoring Illegal Drug Sales on Platform

A watchdog group filed a complaint against Facebook with federal investigators at the SEC, stating that illegal sales of opioids and other narcotics are proliferating the social media giant, without checks from moderators.

A campaign to target and sanction Facebook, led by the National Whistleblower Center, filed its first complaint with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this week. In the filing, Facebook watchdogs and a former employee said that the ubiquitous social network routinely ignores illegal drugs advertised and sold on the site, including downright obvious hashtags like #buydrugsonline.

The complaint, which was obtained in its entirety by the Washington Post, is broken into two parts. First, the document argues that Facebook’s payment app has facilitated multiple illicit drug transactions and that the site’s content moderators do not have the ability to communicate among departments and stop those sales before they are completed.

In the second instance of alleged wrongdoing, the whistleblower group argues that Facebook should face similar consequences as pharmaceutical corporations for influencing the opioid crisis and that Facebook records contain mountains of evidence against illicit drug dealers.

“Facebook executives were made aware the scale of counterfeit OxyContin being sold across their platforms was enormous,” read a statement in the SEC complaint from a former employee of a security firm tasked with monitoring the online sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. “But while other tech firms and the pharmaceutical industry invested heavily in resources to mitigate the damage of illegal narcotic sales online killing tens of thousands of Americans, Facebook executives aggressively lobbied other social media platforms including Twitter not to take action or to engage in the counterfeit OxyContin removal initiative.”

Since social media networks are often protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents websites from persecution for actions performed by users of their platform, Facebook has so far avoided any direct punishment for illegal activity. But by petitioning the SEC, the whistleblower group hopes to impose fines and consequences that would otherwise go unpunished.

“Compared to hate speech, they did not seem to worry about drugs at all,” a former Facebook content moderator wrote in the complaint.

Facebook has already been subject to SEC fines before, and just last year was forced to pay $100 million in fees for misusing user information. 

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