The phenomenon known as the “opioid crisis” may not be well known to the folk outside the United States – that is, those outside the reach of the nation’s media’s everyday parlance.
For their benefit: it means is that doctors in the US have been over-prescribing opioid drugs – meant to dull the senses to endure the pain of surgery or serious chronic disease. And it means they have been doing this for such a long time and with so little or no real justification as to create an entire class of addicts abusing this type of medication.
And it turns out that Facebook has something called “Stop Opioid Silence” as one of its campaigns launched just recently.
Given the prominence given to this particular form of drug abuse in the US media over the past years, Facebook labeling it as “silence” might appear as the social media giant’s biggest faux pas here.
Apparently – not so.
A recent Vice report focuses instead on how Facebook is handling other anti-opioid campaigns on its platform.
Summed up: not well. It’s the same old story in a different setting: Facebook cannot tell apart those using its platform to illicitly sell drugs, from those attempting to reduce harm from using those same drugs.
And when we say “Facebook” – most likely it’s the same highly imperfect algorithmic exercise put in place to automate censorship of content, posted by the giant’s 2.4 billion active users every day.
Sometimes the algorithm bans legitimate drug-awareness content. Other times, it will ban legitimate free speech.
So – could there be an “algorithmic crisis” developing in the US?
Of course, wary of the big picture – when a report like this comes out of a major online website, one should be forgiven for presuming that the intent may be simply to add more pressure on Facebook – to which the company almost invariably reacts by building up more censorship on its platform – in every direction.
An optimist, instead, will presume that Vice’s sole purpose is making sure the opioid crisis victims get better assistance and are not hindered from doing that on a platform with such massive reach and influence like Facebook.