Facebook should be fined if it doesn’t take down illegal and inappropriate material, the chair of a parliamentary committee has told Sky News.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, said that a Sky News investigation into the illegal sale of prescription drugs on Facebook was “incredibly serious”.
Mr Collins told Sky News: “There should be an obligation for these companies to act against that sort of content and material.
“And if they refuse to do that or simply don’t have the resources in place to do it – and no one can believe that companies like Facebook can’t afford to have the resources in place to combat this material – then I think we should look at the idea of some sort of fines for companies failing to act.”
The Sky News investigation revealed dozens of accounts illegally offering prescription drugs – including powerful and addictive tranquilliser, sedatives and opioids for sale.
When the accounts were reported, Facebook initially refused to remove them.
It was only when Sky News contacted Facebook directly, asking for a comment ahead of broadcasting the story, that the accounts were removed.
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Facebook refused repeated requests for an interview, and instead issued a statement.
“Buying, selling, or trading prescription drugs isn’t allowed on Facebook and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they come across this kind of activity, so we can investigate and take swift action,” it said.
“We’re grateful to Sky News for flagging this content to us and have removed the pages for breaking our standards.”
However, Sky News has since found more than two dozen similar drug dealing accounts. We have reported them using Facebook’s tools, but as of publication, they remain active.
The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told Sky News that the availability of sedatives, tranquilisers and opioids on the platform “completely changes the game”.
Danny Lee-Frost, head of enforcement at the MHRA, told Sky News: “The sleeping pills and antidepressants are a lot more dangerous.
“Sleeping pills particularly, they can be addictive. People have committed suicide as the ultimate resort to try and get off them. These are fiercely addictive.”