Menendez, Cassidy Call on the Securities and Exchange Commission to Thoroughly Investigate Complaint against Facebook

Menendez, Cassidy Call on the Securities and Exchange Commission to Thoroughly Investigate Complaint against Facebook

Senators’ bipartisan letter follows recent news report that highlighted concerning actions aby the social media giant to lobby and influence the decision making process of other platforms

    
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bill Cassidy M.D. (R-La.) today called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to thoroughly investigate a recent whistleblower complaint alleging Facebook is aware of, and failing to police, illegal activities on its platforms, including the selling of counterfeit drugs.

The Washington Post reported that in a sworn statement attached to the complaint “a former Facebook content moderator said the social network’s moderation policies were ad hoc and often changed in response to media events. ‘Compared to hate speech, they did not seem to worry about drugs at all,’ the statement said.”

“If true, the allegations submitted by the whistleblowers could potentially expose Facebook to myriad liability under federal banking laws.  Moreover, as noted in the whistleblower complaint, Facebook could also face liability for exacerbating the country’s opioid crisis,” the senators wrote to Chairman Clayton in their bipartisan letter. “Overall, these allegations represent a troubling pattern on the part of Facebook, a prioritization of revenue over public safety.”

Further, according the Post’s reporting of the whistleblower complaint, as other tech firms were investing in ways to mitigate the alarming rise in opioid-related deaths from illegal narcotics sold online, Facebook executives “lobbied other social media platforms including Twitter not to take action or to engage in the counterfeit OxyContin removal initiative.”

“As such, we believe these claims warrant a serious and thorough investigation,” the senators concluded.

The full text the letter is available here and below.

Dear Chair Clayton:

We write regarding a whistleblower complaint against Facebook filed on May 26, 2020 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  We ask that you thoroughly investigate the claims made by the whistleblower and take appropriate action if the claims are found to be meritorious.

According to the complaint, Facebook is aware of illegal activity on its platform, such as the selling of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and fails to police such activity.  According to the Washington Post, “[i]n a sworn statement attached to the complaint, a former Facebook content moderator said the social network’s moderation policies were ad hoc and often changed in response to media events. ‘Compared to hate speech, they did not seem to worry about drugs at all,’ the statement said.”

Another troubling allegation arises from the statement of a former employee of a cybersecurity firm hired by Purdue Pharma to root out online counterfeiters.  The former employee claims that in 2012 and 2013, platforms such as eBay and Google agreed to work with the firm to remove posts selling counterfeit OxyContin.  Facebook, is alleged to have not cooperated in that effort.  Even more concerning, is the allegation that “Facebook executives aggressively lobbied other social media platforms including Twitter not to take action or to engage in the counterfeit OxyContin removal initiative”.

If true, the allegations submitted by the whistleblowers could potentially expose Facebook to myriad liability under federal banking laws.  Moreover, as noted in the whistleblower complaint, Facebook could also face liability for exacerbating the country’s opioid crisis.  Overall, these allegations represent a troubling pattern on the part of Facebook, a prioritization of revenue over public safety. As such, we believe these claims warrant a serious and thorough investigation. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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