Rick Scott and Gus Bilirakis want social media platforms to do more to tackle the opioid crisis
Last week, the United States Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., and U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., sent a letter to the leaders of Meta Platforms, Inc., WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snap Inc. and ICT Tac requesting information about each platform’s actions to stop the opioid crisis, which has claimed the lives of more than 75,000 Americans over the past year.
Their letter comes after reports showed teenagers had access to drug dealers through social media platforms.
The letter is below.
Dear General Manager:
The opioid epidemic has been felt by almost every family in America. In the past year alone, we have lost more than 75,000 lives due to opioid overdoses, an increase of more than 34% over the previous year. Every five minutes another American dies from a fentanyl overdose or poisoning. Of particular concern is the growing number of young Americans dying due to the deception and heinous actions of online drug traffickers, many of whom reach users through your platform.
On December 16, 2021, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported seizing enough fentanyl in 2021 to provide a lethal dose to every American. Information gathered by the DEA also finds a direct link to fentanyl-related overdoses and rogue cartel networks in Mexico. In this same report, the DEA announced that it had seized more than 20 million fake prescription pills, including four out of 10 containing a lethal dose of fentanyl.
A recent SCS News the investigation created two fake profiles on Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, and claimed to be high school students. The account holder was able to find a drug dealer within 48 hours. The link between social media platforms and illegal drug trafficking is clear to everyone. The question you now need to ask yourself is how many more children, teens and adults need to die before your platform commits to an aggressive approach to fighting this outbreak?
While we understand that people using your platform may report accounts selling drugs or other illegal content in violation of your platform’s guidelines, the turnaround time to process these reports is nothing short of less than a slap in the face for every American who has lost a loved one to this crisis. From establishing “industry best practices” to making legislative changes, something must be done to combat the growing presence of counterfeit and illegal drugs.
One promising idea focused on reducing the capabilities of these cartels and dealers is a Trusted Reporter program. A Trusted Reporter program helps the platform monitor accounts that engage in potentially illegal activity or violate platform guidelines. With the speed at which an online search can turn up drugs, lives are literally at stake every minute that an illegal account remains active.
Due to the urgency of this outbreak affecting millions of people across America, we seek your attention to the following questions, to which we expect responses by January 31, 2022:
Do you agree to work with appropriate local, state, and federal law enforcement to create a Trusted Reporter program to help remove these accounts?
How many accounts have you found advertising counterfeit pills on your platform?
How many of these accounts were reported to you by a user on your platform?
How many of these accounts have you found on your own?
Do you proactively refer accounts mentioning counterfeit pills or fentanyl to law enforcement?
Do you notify the account holder that they are under investigation by law enforcement, which could lead to them escaping and continuing to sell their product and kill people?
To which law enforcement entities do you refer suspected drug sales and/or trafficking accounts?
Over the past year, on average, how many subpoenas have you received per month related to accounts used to sell or distribute drugs?
What is the average turnaround time to respond to a subpoena issued by a law enforcement agency (not including an automated or “received” style response)?
Are your moderators looking for accounts or posts that use the DEA Emoji Drug Code, or various permutations of the Emoji Drug Code? If not, why not?
What has your company done to help raise awareness of the DEA’s One Pill Can Kill campaign?
The lives of millions of Americans and the future of our children are in the hands of leaders like you. Together we can find a way to help stem the crisis and save countless people, and we look forward to hearing from you and working together to achieve that goal.