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Meta’s Controversial Move: Defying Ethics Board, Unrestricted Drug Posts

Meta’s Controversial Move: Defying Ethics Board, Unrestricted Drug Posts

Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has decided to ignore some of the advice from its ethics watchdog regarding drug-related posts. This decision has significant implications for how people access information about psychedelic drugs.

The Oversight Board’s guidance on drugs was prompted by a 2022 post that described a ketamine treatment as a “medicine” and a “magical entry into another dimension.” Meta removed and reinstated the post multiple times before the board overturned its decision to leave it up. The board also recommended that Meta conduct an audit of its policies on selling or promoting illegal or recreational drugs, which it deemed inconsistently enforced.

While Meta has agreed to clarify its policies on “paid partnerships,” it has chosen to disregard the board’s guidance on individual users’ posts about drugs that can provide a high but are also used in medical settings, such as ketamine and other psychedelic drugs. Additionally, Meta has only committed to assessing the feasibility of conducting an audit in 2024, citing its existing machine-learning automation for content enforcement.

The Oversight Board expressed disappointment with Meta’s decision not to clarify its policy as recommended. Currently, Meta’s policy allows content that admits to using or promotes the use of pharmaceutical drugs, even if it results in a “high,” as long as it occurs in a supervised medical setting. The board had urged Meta to define what qualifies as such a setting.

Meta’s funding of the Oversight Board does not obligate it to follow the board’s advice. However, this decision has implications for companies like Mindbloom, which works with psychiatric clinicians prescribing ketamine for home use. Mindbloom had lobbied for Meta to allow posts related to psychedelic drugs. The ongoing ambiguity may also benefit the promotion of other drugs due to state-specific legalization of psychedelic drugs in certain settings.

Mindbloom’s General Counsel, Michael Petegorsky, viewed Meta’s decision as a victory for people using ketamine therapy and other psychedelic medicines. He believes it will enable individuals to freely discuss emerging mental health treatments without disclosing private health information.

The prevalence of drug-related posts on social media has led to comparisons with a neighborhood drug dealer. Some sellers have been emboldened by decriminalization policies in certain cities and states, while buyers are attracted to psychedelic drugs due to positive press about their potential benefits in treating conditions like depression. Parties involved in research or the sale of drugs have a vested interest in seeing them discussed on social media.

Overall, Meta’s decision to ignore certain recommendations from its ethics watchdog has sparked debate about the responsible oversight of drug-related content and the impact on public perception and access to information.

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Akash Osta