Zuckerberg Testimony: Should Facebook Be Stopping Opioid Trafficking?
Author: Justin Mckibben
This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg found himself sitting in front of a tough crowd on Capitol Hill for 2 days of questioning that covered various topics about the social media empire. The testimony covered how Facebook influences politics, handles user data, and what steps are being taken to prevent abuse of the massive tech companies international platform.
During the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg, the topic came up of drug trafficking, specifically opioid sales, through Facebook.
Is Social Media Enabling Illegal Activity?
The line of questioning concerning opioids came from David McKinley. McKinely is the Republican Representative from West Virginia. On day two of the testimony, Mark Zuckerberg was grilled about opioid dealers abusing the social media space in order to distribute their drugs. During the conversation, McKinley states,
“Your platform is still being used to circumvent the law, and allow people to buy highly addictive drugs without a prescription,”
The Congressman went on to ask,
“With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity and, in so doing, you are hurting people. Would you agree with that statement?”
“Congressman, I think that there are a number of areas of content that we need to do a better job of policing on our service. Today the primary way that content regulation works here … is that people can share what they want on the service, and then if someone sees an issue they flag it to us, and then we will review it.”
During McKinley’s comments, he actually shows Zuckerberg with images on a screen that opioids and other prescription narcotics are still actively being sold via Facebook. Later in McKinely’s statements he adds,
“That was just from yesterday. It’s still up. So my question to you is- when are you going to take down these posts that are done by illegal digital pharmacies?”
“Congressman, when people report the posts, we will take them down and have people review them.”
When the congressman continued to press Zuckerberg on Facebook taking responsibility for the posts made on the platform concerning illegal drugs, Zuckerberg replied,
“Congressman, I agree that this is a terrible issue and respectfully, when there are tens-of-billions or a hundred-billion pieces of content shared every day… even 20,000 people reviewing it can’t look at everything. What we need to do is build more AI tools that can proactively find that content.”
- AI referring to artificial intelligence.
This is not the first time critics have called out tech companies for falling short on policing illicit drug sales through their platforms.
In 2011, search-engine giant Google agreed to pay $500 million to the Department of Justice for showing prescription drug ads from Canadian online pharmacies to U.S. consumers. Only a week before Zuckerberg sat down to speak with Congress, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb had already called on social media platforms to root out and exterminate the online opioid trade. Gottlieb stated,
“We find offers to purchase opioids all over social media and the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, and Bing. But when it comes to opioids, we haven’t seen meaningful, voluntary actions.”
Some of the posts McKinely flagged to Facebook have already been taken down. However, McKinley still says that Facebook’s internal controls “don’t seem adequate” in regards to detecting and removing illegal drug posts.
Are Zuckerberg and Facebook Responsible?
The biggest theme- whether it came to Cambridge Analytica, censorship of political views, selling consumer data or illicit opioid marketing- was accountability.
The question throughout the testimony is- are Zuckerberg and Facebook responsible?
Some have argued that if Facebook intends to censor things like hate speech or political interference, then they should also be responsible for monitoring and shutting down any illegal activity happening on the website. Some people believe that if drug dealers are posting on social media, their posts should be automatically removed. That is a good goal. Others might even insist that Facebook should report these profiles to law enforcement to help investigate dealers and make more arrests.
But should Facebook be mandated and regulated to enforce these ideas? Moreover, should they be punished when people manage to cheat their system or slip through the cracks?
Many might argue Facebook should not be punished for the posts individuals make. One comparison might be that we do not prosecute cell-phone service providers when their products and services are used in illegal activity. And if we expect Facebook to thoroughly monitor all activity and report any suspicious behavior to the authorities, should cellular services be held to the same standard?
While private phone-calls are a far cry from public posts to the internet, what is the best way walk this line of privacy and security in the digital age?
Is it fair to say that Mark Zuckerberg is himself hurting people because his company is unable to police the hundreds of billions of posts made to their site every day? Or is it true that the company is slacking when it comes to addressing these issues promptly and effectively?
Social media is changing a lot of the way we communicate, and like any other advancement, it can be taken advantage of. One thing is certain; if we want to fight the opioid epidemic we have to put more research into prevention, and more focus and support into safe and effective treatment. Technology can impact drug use, but it can also connect people and help them get on the right path toward recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
This Monday Christ Forester, the offensive line coach from the Miami Dolphins, resigned from his position after 25 years in the NFL. Forester was one of the highest paid assistants in the league, even though he only became a Dolphins coach a year ago. His recent departure from the coaching staff comes only 12 hours after a video of him snorting a white powdery substance off an office desk went viral.
So what does this recent scandal tell us about drug abuse?
A Social Media Scandal
The 56-second video shows Forester himself appears to be filming while speaking into the camera. During the course of the video Forester states:
“Hey baby, miss you, thinking about you,” he says to the camera. He says he is about to go into a meeting and is “doing this before I go.”
Kijuana Nige, a Las Vegas model, first posted the video on Sunday to Facebook. It has since been deleted. At one point on the post to the social media site, Nige had stated people were upset with her actions “like I forced blown down this man’s nose” with the term “blow” being commonly known as slang for the illegal drug cocaine.
Screen-captured images of a post on Twitter with pictures from the video also show Nige stating:
“Those are his habits and he recorded himself and sent it to me professing his love.”
Kijuana Nige also claims that she used to date the Dolphins coach, and sources indicate the video was recorded sometime this year.
The Football Fall-Out
Other parts of the caption in the comments take on a more political tone, as Nige talks about posting the video and exposing the Dolphins coach as a way to respond to the backlash against black NFL players who are participating in protests of police brutality on the sidelines of football games.
The video was posted the same day that it was reported the Dolphins head coach Adam Gase has made it a team rule that players are required to stand for the Anthem. Apparently, players who do not wish to stand for the National Anthem on the Dolphins team must stay in the tunnel during the ceremony.
In her social media crusade, Nige has also implied that she has other videos she could make public. She states:
“They better leave ppl (people) like Colin Kaepernick alone before I pick off more of’ em”
Of course, this refers to the 49ers former quarterback who was the first player to take a knee and vocalize his reasons for protesting.
Following the growing controversy of the viral video, the Dolphins coach made a statement saying,
“I am resigning from my position with the Miami Dolphins and accept full responsibility for my actions,”…”I want to apologize to the organization and my sole focus is on getting the help that I need with the support of my family and medical professionals.”
The Dolphins also made a public statement that included:
“We were made aware of the video late last night and have no tolerance for this behavior.”
“Although Chris is no longer with the organization, we will work with him to get the help he needs during this time.”
While the Dolphins made it clear that they had accepted Foresters resignation immediately, they still say are going to support Forester in getting help, which may mean some addiction treatment or other recovery resources.
Exposing Drug Abuse
Of course, this isn’t the first time some form of public figure in the sports world has been exposed for drug use. Even coaches in high school, college or professional sports have been caught from time to time in some kind of drug scandal. In some cases, it is performance enhancing. Other times it is the recreational use of illicit drugs.
However, this is the only time (at least that I have ever heard of) that a viral video has shown an NFL coach in the act of consuming drugs. So it is a unique case.
Yet, when drug abuse is exposed in the media it actually reveals the best and the worst of our reactions to issues concerning drug abuse and addiction. Some people will immediately begin to demonize the individual. But the better side we get to see is that at least the Dolphins franchise has said they will support his efforts to get help. In a way, a story like this points again to the very real fact that anyone can struggle with drug abuse. Celebrities, decorated athletes, and even extremely successful professionals can struggle with substance use.
If we can accept an NFL coach has made a mistake but is willing to step down and get help, maybe we can show more compassion to those around us who need help; maybe we need to have more compassion for ourselves. Either way, instead of stirring up more contention and controversy let us support those who need a way out.
In recovery from drug abuse and addiction, we are all on the same team. It’s easy to see how substance abuse affects more than the average individual. Even celebrities and professionals can get caught in the grips. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
What kind of selfie do you usually snap? Is it one with an obscene amount of editing to look glamorous? Is it one of you and the family at dinner or out in some exotic location on vacation? Or is it a pic of you and a volunteer crew at a charity event? When you hashtag and share it, what does that selfie say about you? What is the message you are trying to send?
Before we have talked about the dangers of obsessive selfie taking, and I have personally related to how the ‘selfie society’ of today could be risky for those struggling with addiction or mental health concerns, presenting issues with narcissism or relating to depression when correlated an obsession with social media. So what kind of selfies contribute to these issues?
Well, that much might be said about all of them, depending on who you ask. The one question that might hit closer to home is- what kind of selfie taker are you?
Recent a group of BYU communications master’s students, feeling themselves surrounded by the selfie-saturated culture that is social media, decided to ask the question: what is the method to the selfie madness? This has proven to not just be a millennial problem, because your uncle and aunt do it, just like your bosses and teachers. Grandma might not be all that good at it, but she takes plenty of selfies anyway.
So why do people of all ages, cultures, genders and religions take and share selfies?
Are We All Narcissists?
Some people would say that ‘this generation’ is so self-absorbed, but again; it isn’t just one group. The answer, at least one we hear so often, is simply narcissism. But are we all narcissists?
Naaaaaaah, can’t be.
Actually, in a study recently published in Visual Communication Quarterly, those same five BYU student researchers took a closer look. In their data they show that individuals’ motives often range far past self-obsession. Sometimes our selfies are actually taken with purpose, whether we notice or not.
Steven Holiday, who completed his master’s in 2015 and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, is one of the co-authors. Of this latest topic Holiday states,
“It’s important to recognize that not everyone is a narcissist,”
So to be clear on the idea of true narcissism and the connection we often misguidedly make to selfies, we should look at the definition. To refresh your memory:
- Narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.
- Narcissistic personality disorder(NPD) – is a condition that is estimated to affect only 1% of the population.
After analyzing survey results and interviews, researchers say they can identify three categories of selfie-takers:
These are individuals who take selfies primarily to engage with others for some reason. They don’t just do it for their face on a cause, but to draw followers into a conversation. One of the survey’s co-authors and current student Maureen “Mo” Elinzano states,
“They’re all about two-way communication,”
So it isn’t about the spotlight on them, it’s about shining to give others a reason to shine.
An example of this is when the election season came around and everyone, including celebrities, took an “I voted” selfie to plaster on Instagram. These photos aren’t (always) meant to brag about the individual, they are about calling others to action. People talk a lot about opinions on social media, so some people take a selfie as an opportunity to inspire action.
This type of selfie taker uses the art of the selfie as a tool to record key events in their lives. This autobiography isn’t necessarily to show off to their followers, but to try and preserve significant memories for themselves and their loved ones.
This group of selfie takers does also want others to see their photos and enjoy them, but they aren’t necessarily doing it for the feedback. They are cataloging their lives for their own benefit, not for the engagement that the Communicators are.
For example, plenty of people will have entire albums on Facebook dedicated to specific trips or events. They don’t (always) organize these specifically for likes as much as they do for their trips down memory lane.
This infamous category is the one everyone typically assumes a selfie taker falls into, but it is actually the smallest of the three groups. These are the ones who are closely linked to more narcissistic characteristics.
The coauthor Harper Anderson states the self-publicists “are the people who love documenting their entire lives,”
Harper Anderson, who is also now pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, went on to say that in recording and sharing their entire lives, these selfie takers are hoping to present their narrative in a trendy and desirable light.
Think the Kardashians. Without any real sustenance, these selfies are just for the sake of “look at me everyone” without actually having a connection to a cause.
Personally, I present the idea of a collage style world where sometimes we blur these lines a bit. Some people may read these three types and say “I do all of these” and I get that. Perhaps we are all likely to have varied traits, but perhaps we can admit that one of these styles is our dominant selfie taking self. In this event, we can more closely examine if we are impacting our mental health; maybe even that of others.
Holiday went on to describe that identifying and categorizing the three groups is valuable in part because-
“…it’s a different kind of photography than we’ve ever experienced before…I can go on Facebook or Instagram and see that people have a desire to participate in a conversation. It’s an opportunity for them to express themselves and get some kind of return on that expression.”
Another co-author Matt Lewis states
“…years from now, our society’s visual history is going to be largely comprised of selfies. To find out why people do it, that contributes a lot to the discussion on selfies and visual communication in general.”
Our world isn’t just one picture at a time. Every moment is a collage of events happens simultaneously. We exchange the currency of our stories through an ever-expanding network of social media sites and while at times we may seem obsessive or impulsive, at least we are trying to use our new tools to connect.
It may seem strange, but I do think that regardless of whether you’re climbing a mountain in Africa, raising awareness for people struggling somewhere, or simply showing off your new hair-cut, we all have something to offer.
We all have something worth sharing.
Take that selfie. Post it. Let the “double tap” fall where it may.
The selfie is like a socially accepted addiction, and while mental health has been a close conversation to it, we hope that we can continue to learn from our compulsions and be able to help others. Mental health issues and drug or alcohol abuse frequently co-exist. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Social media and online networking are such a relevant aspect of our world today. With entire enterprises rising from online marketing, and children carrying smartphones, technology continues to be integrated into all areas of life by leaps and bounds. So with social media being utilized for basically every purpose, from personal to business, it is no surprise that some forward thinkers continue to find ways to put these all-encompassing outlets to good use.
Though stunning selfies full of filters, scenes of nature with inspiring quotes, and aesthetically perfect pictures of food dominate the Instagram app, the social media site isn’t void of some damaging content. Instagram is still used as a platform for some questionable photos, like pro-anorexia and pro-self-harm posts.
To fight back Instagram is now launching a new tool that allows users to issues. But they don’t stop there. The Instagram app also steps in to offer intervention options.
Instagram App VS Eating Disorders
The Instagram app already actively takes a stand on promoting positive mental health in some areas. It tried in 2012 to put a stop to pro-eating disorder posts. Often hashtags like #thinspiration and #ana are attached to these posts, so to prevent these tags from attracting admiration, the Instagram app tried to make these tags unsearchable. They also disabled accounts and added content advisories.
Some hashtags are banned completely, such as:
- #thinspo, short for the pro-anorexia phrase “thinspiration”
- #proana, another pro-anorexia phrase
Still, other potentially problematic tags fall into a gray area and are still allowed. The Instagram app had to witness the issue head-on when researchers examined 2.5 million posts between 2011 and 2014, also analyzing 15 pro-eating disorder hashtags that were banned or moderated. What they found was truly disheartening. For each banned/moderated hashtag, there was an average of 40 spin-off hashtags.
- #anorexia, as banned, there were 99 variations of the hashtag, such as- #anorexique or #anoexica
- #thighgap had variations of #thygap and #thigh gap
- #bulimia would be transformed into #bulimiah
According to the study, these variations even boasted more comments and more “likes” than the originals. So when the Instagram app tried to shut down the pro-eating disorder exploitation of their forum, users found loop-holes. Spin-off hashtags are also noted to exhibit a higher focus of self-harm related posts.
The Instagram app was trying to make a difference, but the fight evolved with their efforts. It is time to implement new strategies.
Now the Instagram app is putting some of the power to act in the hands of other users. Users can now anonymously flag posts about self-harm or other mental health issues, and Instagram will step in.
But Instagram isn’t militantly and automatically shutting down every post that gets flagged. Instead, the Instagram app is taking a compassionate and proactive approach. Once a picture is flagged, the user who put up the image will see a message offering help:
“Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”
Then, the app will offer to connect them with a helpline, assistance in talking to a friend or getting tips. If Instagram app users search any of those questionable tags, they’ll also be directed to the same support page.
Instagram developed the new tool in dexterity by uniting with a variety of resources, including:
- National Eating Disorders Association
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
They even reached out to real people who have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts personally to come up with the most effective and compassionate message. Instagram COO Marne Levine said in a recent interview that,
“We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out,”
“These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.”
In this writer’s opinion, this is an awesome innovation. This doesn’t attack the individual making the post, but instead offers support and displays concern in a positive light. Not to say there is anything wrong with banning hashtags or other methods of regulating social media. This just seems like it does not isolate the individual as much, and instead shows someone who may be suffering care and kindness. Instead of silencing a cry for help or sweeping it under the rug, it puts a solution on the table.
This kind of intervention by the Instagram app not only tries to protect those who may be susceptible to the negative impact of these images, it also promotes mental health solutions through positive outreach.
Well done Instagram.
Eating disorders and other mental health disorders are often co-occurring with addiction or substance abuse. Understanding dual diagnosis and providing holistic treatment can be very essential for effective and lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please don’t wait. Call toll-free and find out how to get help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Probably one of the most disturbing articles I have written about my home state of Ohio is one I can’t ignore. Since the photo of the two parents overdose in a car with a child in the back seat first broke it has been covered by pretty much every national news entity. The images have flooded Facebook feeds and internet forums all day. The story has been emailed to me, messaged to me, even texted to me over and over again since the news was first published. Honestly, this image says a lot about what is really going on.
I’ve heard some people insisting the media is on some mission to shock us with these photos and the headlines it’s attached to, but this is the reality! People need to wake up! This is happening in every town, not just the City of East Liverpool, Ohio. This very same situation is reoccurring in rural counties and downtown areas across the nation. Something needs to change, and like I keep saying- we need to change it.
The difference here is that police officers decided to make a statement with the severity of this graphic picture; to tell the story that is happening to families everywhere with one heartbreaking and gut-wrenching hit to the soft spot of our society.
This is what we are doing to our children.
Not a Pretty Picture
The City of East Liverpool, Ohio took to Facebook to share two graphic photos taken by a police officer at the scene of a stop. The post on social media does note that making the photos public was a combined decision by the city administration, law director, and the police department.
In the image we can clearly see a couple that authorities described as overdosing on drugs in the front seat of a car. The mother’s body is hunched and folded over the center console in the front seat of the vehicle. Her face seems shrunken in and dead. The husband is buckled into the front seat, and has nodded out.
The photo is almost abstract. Like two images that obviously don’t belong have been pasted together. The parents in the front seat look as if any sign of color has been drained out of them- it is all so depressing it feels faded and lifeless… then right behind them, in a blue and green t-shirt with cartoon dinosaurs, sitting in what appears to be a car seat, is a 4 year old child. It is an unreal reality… a tragic and despairing truth.
The post that accompanied the pictures powerfully states:
“We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”
So far this post is being both praised and criticized. At one point it had been shared on Facebook more than 12,000 times, and that was a few hours ago. By now that number has undoubtedly skyrocketed.
The Police Report
The police report detailing this story is also posted on Facebook. In the report East Liverpool police officer Kevin Thompson reviewed that on September 7 he was responding to a report of a Ford Explorer with a West Virginia license plate “driving very erratic weaving back and forth” before an abrupt stop in the middle of the road behind a school bus in the process of letting children off. Inside the vehicle the officer found two adults:
The driver, identified as James Acord, was speaking unintelligibly. Acord’s head was bobbing up and down, and eventually became unconscious during the stop. But before passing out Acord told the officer he was taking his front seat passenger to the hospital. The officer had to remove the keys from the vehicle as Acord made a last attempt to drive away.
The passenger, identified as Rhonda Pasek, was completely unconscious and “turning blue” according to Thompson.
Inside the car, police found a “yellow folded up piece of paper” between Pasek’s legs. Inside the paper officers discovered a “small amount of a pink powdery substance.”
Then there is the piece of this picture that has the country in an uproar- the little boy in the backseat. The child is now identified as Pasek’s son.
Thompson called for an ambulance and the emergency personnel. Once emergency services arrived they were able to administer the opiate overdose antidote, Narcan to both adults. After regaining consciousness Acord and Pasek were transported to East Liverpool Hospital.
Acord was eventually charged with
He plead no contest and was sentenced to 180 days in jail for two of those charges, but the stopping in a roadway charge was dropped. He will also have a 3 year suspension on his license and a $475 fine.
Pasek was charged with:
- Endangering children
- Public intoxication
- Not wearing a seatbelt
She plead not guilty and is held on $150,000 bond until her next court date, which is next Thursday.
At this time the 4 year old child is with Columbiana County Children’s Services.
This picture is not pretty to look at. It brings an ache to my chest and a sting to my eyes. I could cry for this child, and for his family. For the millions of people out there today with family who are doing the same thing to themselves and their children. The driver could have killed them all in a freak accident. Now… imagine the horror if he would have nodded out at the wheel and struck that school bus as it let kids off! How many more children could have been hurt?
What We Need to See
Some are outraged at the lack of privacy for the family. Many have insisted it is wrong to punish the two adults AND the child with a life haunted by this photo. I get it, and I’m an advocate for compassion instead of stigma and exploitation. It is truly troubling to know how harshly people will be judged by the images of them found online. Yet, I think things like this are what we need to see sometimes. It is a fine line to walk, but in the end there is a reality to the image that only something so intimate could convey- this is what we need to see.
What we need to see is how this epidemic is destroying the thing that most of us hold sacred- our families. While many people are upset about the images, I understand the local officials motives. The Facebook post confronts this controversy head-on:
“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis. The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that,”
We the addicts need to see this the dark and brutal truth. The sad and comatose body of an addicted mother dying only a few inches away from her child who is barely old enough to walk and talk on his own! We all need to see the truth of this disease. It is killing us, and it is putting everyone around us at risk- especially the ones we love most. We need to see the children and the communities we are hurting. This is the face of addiction as we often refuse to acknowledge it.
Addiction is killing our families every day. But there is help. Real recovery begins with a real foundation for a better future. We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
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If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. You are not alone.
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