Zuckerberg: Facebook needs AI tools to ‘proactively’ stop opioid sales

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday on transparency and use of consumer data. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

April 11 (UPI) — Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is committed to fixing the problem of people selling illegal drugs on the social media site Wednesday during his second day of testimony on Capitol Hill.

He answered questions for 5 hours from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce one day after his joint hearing with the Senate judiciary and commerce committees.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., asked Zuckerberg what Facebook is doing to crack down on illegal opioid sales through the social media website.

“Your platform is still being used to circumvent the law and allow people to buy highly addictive drugs without a prescription,” McKinley said. “Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity and in so doing, you are hurting people.”

“There are a number of areas of content that we need to do a better job policing on our service,” Zuckerberg replied, conceding that Facebook needs to be more proactive in doing so.

He said that, as with any inappropriate content, Facebook relies on users flagging illegal posts like opioid sales because there are billions of shares, posts and likes on the site daily.

“I agree that this is a terrible issue, and respectfully, when there are tens of billion pieces of content that are shared every day, even 20,000 people reviewing it can’t look at everything,” Zuckerberg said.

“What we need to do is build more AI tools that can proactively find that content.”

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., suggested Facebook might act more quickly to remove opioid ads if there was the threat of a $1 million fine.

Most of Zuckerberg’s testimony, though, focused on privacy issues and user data. Committee members of both parties asked him about the Cambridge Analytica data breach that resulted in the disclosure of personal information belonging to possibly 87 million people.

Zuckerberg told the committee that his own personal information was among that improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., asked if Facebook would change the default settings to lessen collectible data.

“This is a complex issue that deserves more than a one-word answer,” Zuckerberg answered.

Pallone said he found Zuckerberg’s response “disappointing.”

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., asked why the burden of security and privacy is placed on the user, and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., suggested government regulation of Facebook.

Zuckerberg later said such regulation is inevitable.

Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, using a phrase from his years in the Navy, warned Zuckerberg, “You’re taking on water.”

Zuckerberg agreed with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who asked if Facebook would work with the government to assure privacy protections for American users.


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