Exactly a year ago, then Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin called Snapchat a “drug social network”. Indeed, franchises have been around for a while, and it’s not uncommon to stumble upon content promoting all sorts of items. However, the platform isn’t the only one attracting these sellers. Indeed, Instagram has become an internet dope hub and Meta can’t seem to do much about it.
This was revealed by recent research by the activist group The Tech Transparency Project, which wants to evaluate the ease of access to accounts selling illegal substances. The discoveries are amazing. By creating a test profile just to pose as a teenager, the researchers were able to easily come across many accounts that clearly showed off their products. And without incurring the wrath of the social network.
Drug dealers target teens on Instagram
Finding them couldn’t be easier. For a few reseller accounts to be offered by Instagram, simply type phrases like “MDMA for sale” into the search bar. Like the antidepressant Xanax or “oxy”, short for the recreational drug oxycontin, this actually works for several types of substances, the researchers said.
Of course, Instagram’s policies clearly state that the sale of drugs on its platform is prohibited. But in reality, moderation turns out to be much more complicated than expected. Currently, the Meta subsidiary’s measures prevent the use of certain hashtags related to the drug world, as well as displaying a prevention message whenever the user attempts to type the searches listed above anyway.
But as Tech Transparency Project director Katie Paul points out, these restrictions are far from sufficient to effectively combat this phenomenon. “Instagram is really opposed to doing anything on their platform to materially redress these losses because they don’t want to cut corners”he adds, because too stringent measures can shorten users’ time there.
Instagram isn’t doing enough to get rid of drug dealers
What’s more, these efforts are far less effective than expected. Indeed, the researchers found that some blocked hashtags can be circumvented by elaborating the phrase. For example, it is not possible to use #fetanyl, but #fetanylcalifornia shows results that make many concessions for the platform. Also, #Xanax blocked in the web version is not blocked in the smartphone version of the app.
Worse still, sometimes Instagram encourages these searches. While #opiates yielded no results, the social network suggested to researchers the use of #opiatesforsale (“opiates for sale”). It goes even further. In fact, it is enough for Instagram to follow a single reseller account so that it can offer the user a few more. Some boast their appreciation, while having a specific name and profile photo that leaves little doubt about their activities.
“We do not allow the sale of illegal drugs and our systems detect and remove more than 96% of illegal content before people report it”said in response to meta research. The firm also deleted all accounts reported by The Tech Transparency Project. Still, these discoveries are particularly embarrassing for the latter.
While Instagram has recently come to the fore for its negative impact on the mental health of its young users, knowing that teens can easily buy drugs on its platform will not improve its image. It is clear that the latter still has many shortcomings, especially since the company regularly improves parental control.
Source : forbes