US officials investigate Meta’s role in sale of illegal drugs – report

Meta, the company behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is being probed for its involvement in the sale of illegal drugs on its platforms.

Prosecutors in Virginia have distributed court orders relating to the company’s involvement in the sale of illegal drugs, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported after analyzing the subpoenas.

According to the newspaper, attorneys have requested documentation surrounding the “violative drug content” or the “illicit sale of drugs” on Meta’s platforms. The subpoenas were supposedly distributed in 2023.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been aiding the investigation, according to individuals aware of the matter.

A Meta spokesperson told the WSJ that “the sale of illicit drugs is against our policies, and we work to find and remove this content from our services.”

Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, took to X to address the issue, saying that “the opioid epidemic is a major public health issue that requires action from all parts of US society.”

“That’s why Meta has joined the Alliance to Prevent Drug Harms alongside the Department of State, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and Snapchat to help disrupt the sale of synthetic drugs online and educate users about the risks,” said Clegg.

The issue is no longer big pharma counterfeits sold on Facebook. Instead, it’s the sale of synthetic drugs across Meta’s platforms, the WSJ explains.

This isn’t the first time that Meta has been found guilty of ignoring illegal activity on its platforms.

In December 2023, Meta and its offshoot Instagram were served with a lawsuit for steering children to child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and toward predators.

At the time, Meta was served with a lawsuit. The following day, the company announced its decision to introduce end-to-end encryption for its platforms, potentially allowing predators, drug dealers, and criminals to solicit, distribute, and take part in illegal activity on the platform while evading detection from authorities.

The discussion on holding technology companies accountable for how third parties use their platforms has been long and ongoing.

Yet this has been complicated by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which deems that online platforms shouldn’t be held accountable for what others post – with some exceptions.