Stop Regulating Consumer Free Speech in Social Media and Web Searches

freespeech

Target: Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Margaret Hamburg

Goal: Stop forcing companies to censor consumer free speech on the internet

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued warning letters to two disease supplement companies for interacting with their customers online. One company was issued a warning for “liking” a Facebook customer testimonial and the other was issued a warning because a website search for disease terms pulled up information about the company’s products. In both cases, the FDA asserts the companies made an implied claim of curing diseases. The agency believes companies are now responsible for customer comments on social media websites, which increasingly play an important role in communication and interaction between companies and the public. The FDA appears to be arbitrarily taking punitive action against these companies and is violating the companies’ and customers’ right to free speech.

The FDA claims the right to censor free speech on the internet based on the “intended use” doctrine of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C), which defines a drug as a product “intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals.” Under this “intended use” doctrine, the FDA can conclude that a product is a “drug” based solely on how the product is promoted. The FDA is very broadly defining what constitutes a disease claim by extending it to these “implied” cases.

The FDA’s warnings conflict with the legal case U.S. v. Caronia, which protects free commercial speech. The FDA’s attempts to censor consumer free speech and internet searches are unconstitutional and unacceptable. Companies should not be held responsible for customer comments on social media pages. If a company were to stop allowing customer comments because of these warnings, this further violates consumer rights to free speech. Tell the FDA to stop trying to censor consumer free speech and internet searches.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Margaret Hamburg,

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued warning letters to companies which violate commercial rights to free speech as determined in the legal case U.S. v. Caronia. In one case, a warning was issued for “liking” a Facebook customer testimonial; the other was issued because a website search for disease terms pulls up information about the company’s products. In both cases, the FDA accused the companies of making implied disease claims. Companies should not be held responsible for customer comments on social media pages. If a company were to disallow customers from making comments, then this would violate not only commercial free speech but also consumer free speech. The FDA has set itself up to censor free speech and violate consumers’ constitutional rights.

The FDA’s attempts to censor consumer free speech and internet searches are unacceptable and violate basic rights to free speech under federal law. This petition demands that the FDA stop trying to censor consumer free speech and internet searches.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Photo credit: Brett Tatman via Flickr-Photo Sharing

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55 Signatures

  • James Thrailkill
  • Eric von Borstel
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