WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of West Virginia’s Congressional Delegation took their turns raising questions with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week. As members of the United States Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees grilled Zuckerberg in the Senate on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) used her turn to raise issue about Facebook’s connection to the opioid crises.
Capito sought information about Facebook privacy policies, but also took the opportunity to get Zuckerberg to commit to partnering with the FDA in an effort to cripple the sales of Fentanyl and other opioid drugs over social media and the Internet.
“I know you have policies against this. The commissioner is announcing his intention to convene a meeting of Chief Executives and senior leaders and can I get a commitment from you that Facebook will have a representative with Commissioner Gotlieb at his meeting?’ Capito asked.
“Senator that sounds like an important initiative and we will send someone,” said Zuckerberg.
But Wednesday, during Zuckerberg’s appearance before the House committees, Congressman David McKinley (R-WV 1)was far less diplomatic.
“There are 35,000 on-line pharmacies and the FDA thinks 96 percent of them are operating illegally,” said McKinley as he showed pictures of Facebook ads for on-line pharmacies. “November of last year CNBC had an article saying you were surprised by the breadth of this opioid crises, but as you can see from these pictures opioids are still available on your site.”
Zuckerberg offered no answer to McKinley’s criticism other than to agree Facebook needed to do a better job at policing some of the content on its service, but McKinley wasn’t done.
“We’ve got statement after statement about how you’re going to take those things down in days,” said McKinley. “That picture was from yesterday and it’s still up. My question to you is when are you going to take down these posts on illegal, digital pharmacies? When are you going to take them down?”
Currently if somebody has a concern about content they have seen on Facebook, they can report it and the content will be reviewed by the Facebook team. McKinley argued it should not be up to Facebook users to report illegal activity, and put the responsibility for policing illegal content on Zuckerberg and his staff.
“Congressman, I agree this is a terrible issue,” Zuckerberg countered, “Respectfully when there are a hundred billion pieces of content shared every day, even 20,000 people reviewing it can’t look at everything.”
Capito, during her questioning also thanked Zuckerberg for his visit the Mountain State and offered an off-hand suggestion.
“The next time you visit please bring some fiber, because we don’t have connectivity in our rural areas like we need,” said the Senator.
Although Capito’s remark about connectivity was aside from the point she was making–it drew Zuckerberg’s attention.
“On your point about connectivity, we do have a group at Facebook working on trying to spread Internet connectivity in rural areas and we’d be very happy to follow up with you,” Zuckerberg told Capito. “That’s something I’m very passionate about.”