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Facebook unveils new feature to battle opioid crisis

Published on 20/06/18 at 10:27am

Despite its highly-publicised transgressions recently, tech giant Facebook is looking to do the right thing by wading into the ongoing US opioid crisis with a new specialised feature on its social media platform.

According to the company, any users looking to purchase illegal opioid products or seeking treatment for addiction to such medication with be redirected to the federal government’s national crisis helpline in order to urge those in the throes of opioid dependency to get treated. The feature will operate primarily by identifying search requests related to the sale of or request for opioid products made through the platform's search function.

The new feature was coordinated in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and in consultation with addiction advocacy non-profit organisation Facing Addiction. It is part of an opioid policy initiative at the company and is led by Avra Siegel, a veteran of the Obama administration.

The move comes following pressures on the leading tech firm to be more proactive in its policing of illegal drug sales on the social media platform. Facebook is the first technology company to put such a feature in place, while rivals including Google and its subsidiary Youtube, Twitter, Reddit and more continue to suffer from similar issues of illicit drug availability.

Facebook unveiled plans during an earnings call last year to hire up to 20,000 staff throughout 2018 for “safety and security” to tackle a list of growing problems including fake news, hate speech, foreign propaganda and illicit drug sales.

Matt Fellows

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