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Facebook redirects would-be opioid buyers to crisis helpline

Instagram will also get the feature soon.
Kris Holt, @krisholt
June 20, 2018
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Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Anyone trying to buy opioids or seeking addiction treatment through Facebook should now instead see information for a federal crisis helpline. Facebook has worked with a policy team on the measure over the last few months, according to Stat. Next week, the Food and Drug Administration is holding a summit on opioids; it's invited Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech companies to discuss how they're stemming drug use.

When anyone tries to buy drugs (or find addiction treatment) through Facebook search, a message will appear at the top of the results asking if they'd like assistance to find treatment. If they accept, Facebook will redirect them to information on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national helpline. Facebook worked with that branch of the Department of Health and Human Services along with recovery advocacy group Facing Addiction to create the redirect. A similar feature will arrive on Instagram in the next few weeks.

At next week's summit, several tech companies will spell out what they're doing to curb opioid use and look for new ways to address the topic. It seems like Facebook's new redirect will provide evidence to the summit that it's actively working on the issue. Facebook has rolled out other socially conscious efforts in recent years, including suicide prevention tools, as well as bans on personal gun sales and gun accessory ads being displayed to under-18s.

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