Facebook and other social media giants have demonstrated rather handily they can control the content that appears on their platforms when they choose. It is absurd, then, for the likes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to pretend he can do nothing about the continued use of his platform to shill the poison that has kept Appalachia and much of the rest of the country in the grip of a plague that has been killing far longer than COVID-19.
Apathy on the part of Zuckerberg and other tech giants has not gone unchallenged, however.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., has seen firsthand the devastation caused by those who are profiting from substance abuse. He had an opportunity last month to say what most of us have been thinking: Tech billionaires who selectively exercise their ability to police what is on their social media platforms should be held accountable for perpetuating this monster.
“You’re still allowing bad actors to push pills on your site,” McKinley told Zuckerberg, during a House Energy and Commerce hearing. “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.”
Facebook and Instagram are not the only culprits. Google, Twitter and others bear their share of guilt, too. Most of us know the influence and reach social media has in our lives. The CEOs of those companies know it, too. It has made them mind-bogglingly rich.
McKinley is on the right track. Others in Congress should join him in looking for ways to hold tech giants accountable for the deadly activity they are allowing.