According to a report by The Washington Post, a group of whistleblowers filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, claiming that Facebook is aware of illegal activity on its platform the sale of opioids, and has failed to police it adequately.
Gretchen Peters assisted with coordinating the whistleblower complaint by the consortium of whistleblowers, which includes Facebook insiders. Peters is an award-winning journalist who is now the executive director of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO), a Washington, D.C. based group of investigators and academics taking on Big Tech.
Peters helped coordinate earlier petitions to the SEC about Facebook’s failure to police wildlife trafficking and terrorist networks. Each filing attracted more Facebook whistleblowers to the group; she told The Washington Post.
The Washington Post report states that the new complaint “includes dozens of pages of screenshots of opioids and other drugs for sale on Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram, with some having seemingly obvious tags such as ‘#buydrugsonline.’ It also notes that Facebook has a pattern of taking down content when it is pointed out by media or activists, only to have it reappear later.”
The group is working with the National Whistleblower Center as part of a campaign to hold Facebook accountable for unchecked criminal activity. Internet companies are exempt from liability for user-generated content by Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act.
Therefore, the consortium hopes to use securities laws to hold Facebook accountable for knowingly allowing illegal activity to occur on its properties.
The complaint argues that Facebook’s failure to tell shareholders about the extent of illegal activity on its platform is a violation of its fiduciary duty. The whistleblowers’ complaint seeks:
“to demonstrate Facebook’s liability for drug activity on its platform — and its failure to communicate this risk to shareholders.”
Whistleblower attorney Stephen Kohn, a founding partner at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto and Chairman of the Board of the National Whistleblower Center, is the group’s attorney. Kohn told The Washington Post, “ the drug activity could draw the interest of the Department of Justice because Facebook is ‘sitting on a massive amount of evidence.’ At the same time, Kohn noted, federal lawmakers have looked at revising Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act, the exemption that protects Internet companies from liability from user-generated content. But no definitive legislation has emerged from those discussions.”