WASHINGTON — Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, among a host of other tech companies, have been invited here for an “opioids summit” next month, part of an effort by the Food and Drug Administration to find ways to crack down on the illicit sale of opioids on those platforms.
The laundry list of internet companies invited to the meeting, to take place June 27, also includes Twitter, Bing, Alibaba, Google, Yahoo, Pinterest, and Reddit. The FDA also invited the online-shopping sites eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other aides in the Trump administration have sought to curb the illicit sale of fentanyl by preventing importation.
But in April, Gottlieb sought to draw attention to the role played by U.S. tech giants. He cited a Senate report that found that users seeking to purchase fentanyl online were able to do so using prepaid credit cards, money order, and even bitcoin. Gottlieb also said then that the FDA employs investigators working to track such transactions on the “dark web.”
Internet companies have have long argued their platforms are neutral — and warned that opening them up to too much liability or responsibility could lead to censorship or stifle innovation on the web. The seven companies Gottlieb named at the time — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Bing — spent more than $39 million on their federal lobbying efforts in 2017.
Included among those invited by the FDA are lesser-known corporations like Afilias, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Public Interest Registry, Verisign, Neustar, and GoDaddy.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pushed Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, and Yahoo in February to put in place new policies to crack down on the sale of illegal opioids.
The companies should disable the ability to search for illicit drugs, they said, and should direct users to legitimate pharmacies and require internally that the platform in question should report to law enforcement whenever it receives information about a company that wants to advertise illegal drugs.