The Pulse of Natural Health Newsletter

Stay informed about what is hot in Washington and the states about natural health

FDA Censoring Free Speech on Facebook

19

Amazing—the little “Like” button has the power to magically turn supplements into drugs. Action Alert!

You will recall how the FDA threatened cherry growers and walnut producers with jail if they opened their mouths about the curative powers of these foods. Now the FDA has issued a warning letter to the Utah nutritional supplement company Zarbee’s, Inc.

The most troubling part of the letter concerns Zarbee’s participation on Twitter and Facebook. The agency says that when the company “likes” their customer’s Facebook comments, they are essentially endorsing the customer’s statement.

In other words, when customers say a product has helped their children stop coughing or has relieved their bronchitis, and Zarbee’s “likes” that post, the FDA believes they are essentially saying, “We certify that everything you have written is scientifically accurate.”

Let’s say a customer writes that a product eased his allergies; once Zarbee’s presses that little Like button, they miraculously turn the customer’s innocuous statement into a claim—an illegal one, punishable by fines or jail—that their product cures or prevents disease. The same holds true even when a consumer makes a statement that few would consider a “disease claim,” such as a product helping their child sleep.

Of course, companies should not be responsible for customers’ comments. By targeting companies for “liking” such comments, the FDA is censoring consumer speech.

Regular readers will recall that this is the second time the FDA has tried to exert complete control over Facebook “likes.” This follows agency efforts to argue that producers are also responsible for anything a merchandiser of the supplement says. The FDA is also using a very elastic interpretation of what constitutes a disease claim, whether explicit or implied. As any Facebook user realizes, a “like” may simply be a passive acknowledgement of someone’s comment; surely it is a stretch to consider any comment that even mentions cancer to be a disease claim!

Action Alert! Tell FDA that its attempts to censor consumer free speech and Internet searches is unacceptable, and let the agency know it has once again completely overstepped its bounds. Send your message today!

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  • Richard

    As strange and perverse the logic is, bad government sophistry is today’s normal. For years now we have seen a government not responsive or, representative of the will of the governed. They have become an open sewer of RICO dimensions.

  • This is one of those crucial issues about which the FDA needs to be flooded with consumer comments. This is America; we all have the constitutional right of free speech. If the FDA holds companies accountable for customer comments, they are in effect censoring every one of us. As a retired military veteran, who took an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, this incenses me no end.
    I hope that this issue will raise such an outcry from consumers that the power hungry FDA bureaucrats who had the unmitigated gall to raise this issue will scuttle back into their holes where they belong, and never raise this issue again.

  • Roberta Hoffman

    Why don’t they put a stop to the truly bogus claims on all kinds of product labels.Deal with real issues please,not made up ones they find on facebook of all places..

  • Rosy Tyre

    What ever happened to our freedom of speech right? This is pretty ludicrous. Please take the time

  • Donna

    So the drug companies are allowed to “like” their customers’ comments, because their products have been scientifically proven? And say “proven” with a huge helping of skepticism. From what I’ve read, most drugs have been put through with inadequate testing and/or the results were manipulated in Big Pharma’s favor. Same for vaccines.

    • Kim

      Unfortunately, any kind of “scientific evidence” can no longer be believed because there has been so much evidence stacked against pharmaceutical companies and other governing bodies which shows us that they can never again be trusted. Once a liar and deceiver always a liar and deceiver!

  • Robert Cruder

    Consumers search for testimonials to make purchase decisions.

    Many testimonials have been written by the vendors themselves using an assumed name and do appear on web searches. Neither the FTC nor the FDA regulate this. Both treat it as “Fool me twice!”

    If a vendor links to a testimonial, the vendor endorses it and commercially benefits from it as if it were the vendor’s own claim.

    While using an assumed name to make a groundless claim may be protected speech, linking to it from a commercial page makes it commercial speech. Were that not so every company would merely hide false claims behind anonymous comments.

    Commercial claims are always subject to the FTC. If testimonials describe health benefits then by linking to them the vendor voluntarily becomes subject to the FDA as well.

    How about vendors disavowing and not linking to claims that they know are not supported by evidence?

    • Charles Shelly

      But of course, all “profit-making businesses” can use the term “natural” on their products or in their advertising, or can use genetically-engineered ingredients without disclosure or independent testing, but the FDA can’t muster up ANY concern about that.

  • Helen Gex Greer

    Don’t fight the First Amendment. Or the right to know. Parents must be able to post freely on facebook. (Remember, no one is required to believe it).

  • Mark Thorson

    It makes no sense at all to say “FDA is censoring consumer speech”. Consumers can continue to say anything they want. It is purely the behavior of profit-making businesses which is affected by this. These businesses can’t link to false and illegal claims like “This product cured my cancer” without taking responsibility for that. All they have to do to avoid heat from the FDA is not link to those claims. Consumers continue to be free to say whatever they want.

  • cindy purnell

    The FDA is absolutely nuts. They can make claims but the average person cannot. Well, their claims are not valid, in my estimation. I wish they would just go away.

  • Joan Prentice

    Again I was forwarded to: secure3 convio site

  • Why is the FDA claims allowed but the everyday individual is censored? Politics and the medical monopoly of course.

    • jo

      it is and always will be about $$$$$$$$$$$ just like everything

  • Heath Medley

    No supplement should make medical claims unless approved by the FDA. Based on what I am reading here the issue is not that the users are making statements about individual experiences, it is that the company, by “Liking” the comment, they are endorsing the comment and therby substantiating the claim as what may be expected from usimg the product. Without controlled scientific studies (meeting FDA requirements) to support the finding that can be applied to a representative population then the claim is not legal.

    Individual results vary and really should be presented as such even if they happen more often than not. Until scientific method is applied it is coincidence…even if it cures cancer, you cant say that until it has happened in a controlled environment.

    Just because I can flip a coin and it lands on heads 8 out of 10 times doesnt mean every quarter will land on heads at least 8 out of 10 times for every person that tries it and to imply such is misleading.

  • Gary Kuehn

    FDA/CORRUPTCORRUPtCORRUPT

  • Kelly

    Over the years, the US government has changed hands and the current political regime run by disgruntled bureaucrats and community agitators follows the doctrine of statism. Plutocrats, control the financial funding, of the Democratic machine,

    combining their collective ideology. When ideological driven Federal Judges are appointed to life long positions they can fundamentally change the culture from within. They can use tortuous logic, twisting of the laws by redefine words, so they can become the Legislative and the Judicial Branch at the same time. Thus, they become the supper-bureaucrat having the power to right law bypass congress, and the president. We need to stand for freedom not tyranny ban together and stop the FDA

  • William Tellall

    What a complete and utter farce the FDA has become. Our government’s shilling for Big Pharma is worthy of a Nazi propagandist.

    Read the food product labels that the FDA has already approved then find out what the ingrediens are. No such transparency or right to scientifically proven facts when it comes to their buddies in the industry.

    In the just passed election, I voted straright thrid-party. I will continue to do so until this nest of corruption is rooted out of our system of government. It is not even accurate to call it a government. It is more just a criminal syndicate that has convinced the credulous they are in it for their benefit.