By Kevin Martin, VP of US Public Policy
The opioid crisis continues to scourge families and communities. Everyone can play a role to help those in need and tech companies are no exception. That’s why Facebook, Google and Twitter are partnering in a new coalition, Tech Together to Fight the Opioid Crisis, to help those struggling with addiction. Led by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), this coalition will enable us to share best practices and find ways to increase our collective impact to address the crisis.
Today marks Tech Together’s first meeting in Washington, D.C., bringing together experts and organizations working on prevention, treatment and recovery to discuss steps we’re taking to combat this epidemic. (Watch this morning’s discussions here.) We’re also sharing updates on our latest efforts to enforce our policies against drug sales, including proactively detecting this content and increasing our work with partners.
Supporting the Good and Stopping the Bad
When it comes to this crisis, the internet has undoubtedly been used both as a force for good and ill. By forging partnerships, building technology, and supporting communities we believe we can lift up the good and defend against the bad — increasing awareness of resources and support while also enforcing our longstanding policies that keep our community safe.
Working with Experts: We partner with experts to maximize the impact of our efforts to reduce stigma, help people find resources, and stop attempts to violate our policies. We work with local and national organizations — including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Facing Addiction, and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids — to support their work and inform ours.
We’re also working with the Computer Forensic Research Lab at the University of Alabama in Birmingham to understand the latest tactics bad actors use to mask their activity, such as new street names for drugs. UAB works closely with our Community Operations team to flag content that may violate our policies so we can take action.
Using Technology to Make Finding Help Easier and Removing Bad Content Faster: We want to make vital resources for treatment easier to find. When people search for information about opioids on Facebook and Instagram, we direct them to SAMSHA’s National Helpline Information Page and other resources for free and confidential treatment and education. Teaming up with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, we’ve made their helpline accessible on Messenger, helping them to connect with over a thousand families in need this year.
We’ve also begun to roll out proactive detection on Facebook and Instagram to take down more content that violates our policies before people may see or report it. Our technology is able to detect content that includes images of drugs and depicts the intent to sell with information such as price, phone numbers or usernames for other social media accounts. By catching more posts automatically, this technology allows our team to use their expertise instead to investigate accounts, Pages, Groups and hashtags, as well as work with experts to spot the next trends.
The Power of Community: Across our platform, Facebook continues to bring people together through products like Groups and Instagram hashtags to provide vital support — whether it’s communities for people who are helping a loved one recover, health professionals sharing treatment information, or organizations combating the stigma that prevents many from seeking help. For example, when we partnered with Facing Addiction as they launched the Voices Project campaign on Facebook to shine a light on the crisis, the non-profit signed up over 15,000 new volunteers in 50 states and increased their online donations by more than 30X over the course of 2017.
We will continue investing in technology to keep illicit drug sales off our platforms, to raise awareness and increase education, and to connect people with help and resources. Facebook services allow friends, families and support networks to help one another through challenging times, making it easier for people who are struggling with addiction or helping loved ones in this battle get the resources they need. We look forward to our new industry alliance and finding ways to increase our impact through collaboration and supporting the important work of our partners.