Feds investigating Meta for possible role in illegal drug sales on Facebook, Instagram

MONEY & BUSINESS: Feds investigating Meta for possible role in illegal drug sales on Facebook, Instagram


The feds are poking Facebook for possible drug dealing.

US prosecutors in Virginia are investigating Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for playing a role in facilitating illegal drug sales online, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

They’ve issued subpoenas and begun questioning whether Meta’s social media platforms are enabling and profiting from illicit drug sales, sources told the Journal.

Prosecutors have also asked for records related to “violative drug content on Meta’s platforms and/or the illicit sale of drugs via Meta’s platforms,” according to copies of subpoenas delivered last year that were seen by the Journal.


Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, is being investigated for possibly facilitating illegal drug sales. Kaspars Grinvalds – stock.adobe.com

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth companies took advantage of Facebook and Instagram by running ads for prescription drugs for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and other medical conditions. The ads contributed to the abuse of controlled substances such as Adderall, the Journal reported, citing interviews from patients and employees.

Sellers recently touted fake versions of popular weight loss drugs on Meta sites, including some that don’t have FDA approval yet, the Journal has reported. But even when Meta has removed some of the flagged ads, new ones soon appear, the outlet said.

The subpoenas were requested by Assistant US Attorney Randy Ramseyer, who previously probed Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin marketing. He was also featured in “Dopesick,” the 2021 Hulu miniseries on the US opioid crisis.

The Food and Drug Administration has been involved in the investigation but the agency and prosecutors’ office would not comment, the Journal reported, adding that such probes don’t always lead to formal charges of wrongdoing.


A photo of Meta spokesman Nick Clegg gesturing with his hands at a panel discussion at Davos.
Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, tweeted last week that “opioid epidemic is a major public health issue that requires action from all parts of US society.” AP

Meta has said it is working with the State Department and others to stop the sale of synthetic drugs online, according to WSJ.

“The sale of illicit drugs is against our policies and we work to find and remove this content from our services,” a spokesman for Meta said in a statement to the outlet. “Meta proactively cooperates with law enforcement authorities to help combat the sale and distribution of illicit drugs.”

“The opioid epidemic is a major public health issue that requires action from all parts of US society,” Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs, tweeted Friday

Legislators have been hampered in their efforts to hold Big Tech responsible for what third parties post on their platforms by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says that online platforms aren’t liable for what third parties post, with a few exceptions.





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