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Whistleblowers say Facebook hasn’t addressed illegal drug sales on platform

A group of whistleblowers reportedly filed a complaint against Facebook to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), claiming that the social network is ignoring drug-related activity on its platform. 

The complaint filed on Tuesday, May 26, presents alleged evidence of drug-related crimes on Facebook, such as drugs being posted for sale, according to The Washington Post. 

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Evidence in the complaint includes drug dealers using hashtags such as #buydrugsonline on both Facebook and Instagram, and even affirmation that drugs were bought and sold using Facebook Pay. 

The group of whistleblowers — which consists of former Facebook employees, journalists, former employees of cybersecurity firms, and more — claim that Facebook is aware of the blatant drug content on its platform but isn’t doing anything about it.

A former Facebook content moderator said in the complaint that moderation policies for drug-related content were lax compared to other topics moderators look out for. 

“Compared to hate speech, they did not seem to worry about drugs at all,” the moderator’s statement reads in the complaint.

Facebook’s current policy on drugs states that, “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers, and retailers to purchase, sell, or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, and marijuana.”

In a blog post from 2018 responding to similar accusations, Facebook said that it blocks drug-related terms and hashtags so people can’t search it and work with outside organizations and experts to understand the latest tactics. 

“Our business is advertising, and no advertiser wants their ads shown alongside these types of posts. So we are investing heavily in more people and better technology to create a safe place for everyone,” wrote Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, in the blog. 

Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, told Digital Trends that Facebook has always disclosed any content risks to the SEC.

“We can’t comment on the substance of a complaint we haven’t seen, but we’ve regularly disclosed potential risks related to content in our SEC filings, including at least four times in the last year.”

While this is the first time Facebook has been in hot water over possible drug-related crimes, it’s not the first time the social media giant has dealt with an SEC filing. 

Last year, on the heels of a historic $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Facebook was hit with a $100 million fine from the SEC for the misuse of users’ information.

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