Instagram Drug Dealers
Instagram drug dealers have become popular online, and law enforcement agencies are working hard to find perpetrators. In the past, most people looked for the Silk Road website on the darknet to find illegal drugs online. However, many drug dealers went to Instagram and other social media sites after the FBI seized and shut down Silk Road.
Why Drug Dealers and Buyers Like Instagram
Instagram is a popular place for drugs because of how easy it is to search for them. When people want to search for pictures that are related to a specific term, they see photos that have relevant hashtags. Although Instagram recently announced plans to crack down on drug-related content, it was not the first time that the social media platform took action. In 2013, it shut down several hashtags that people used to sell drugs. Researchers spent about a day trying different hashtag combinations such as #weed4sale and found at least 50 drug dealers. Since several words were censored, they could also see what did not come up in their searches when they generated a list of common terms.
How Instagram Drug Dealers Operate
When dealers sell drugs on Instagram, they use creative drug-related hashtags to make their photos searchable. They upload pictures of drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, LSD, prescription painkillers and more. If someone finds a photo and wants to buy what they see, they follow a link to an anonymous messaging service to set up a transaction. In most cases, drug dealers accept cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum. Since cryptocurrencies protect the anonymity of users, social media drug dealers often stay under the radar. They normally use USPS to ship the drugs. To enhance their anonymity, the dealers set up temporary Instagram accounts and use VPNs, proxies and other tools to hide their location. Law enforcement agencies have only caught and punished a small number of social media dealers.
How Instagram is Fueling the Opioid Crisis
Social media has made it easier than ever to obtain illegal drugs. Since drug dealers can now protect their anonymity, many prefer to work online instead of on the street. Temporary accounts, the vast number of users on social media and anonymous cryptocurrencies make it impossible to control drug advertising and sales. This is fueling the opioid crisis because of how easy it is for both parties to complete a transaction. According to recent research, many of the people who buy drugs online are teenagers. Most of the people who use Instagram are either teenagers or young adults, which means that the youngest generations of Americans are especially at risk of getting addicted to opioids. After some researchers generated a word cloud of common drug-related hashtags, it was apparent that prescription drugs were among the most popular terms used on Instagram.
Instagram’s effort to crack down on the drug advertising problem has not been significant. Law enforcement agencies called its 2013 hashtag ban a weak attempt to combat drug trafficking on social media. Facebook owns Instagram, and some people use Facebook to sell drugs as well. Fake accounts are harder to find on Facebook. Also, they are often reported quickly and are taken down by Facebook employees. On Instagram, users can flag illegal posts if they see them. Staff members review the reports and remove accounts that violate the platform’s terms of service. However, most Instagram users are not as likely to see drug posts unless they search for them or unless their friends post them, and most people who search for drugs are looking to buy them. When drug dealers lose their accounts, they simply make new ones.
How Instagram is Fighting Illegal Drug Sales
One woman recently made a series of social media posts that gained attention from a Facebook executive. She criticized social media platforms for not taking stronger action and challenged them to do more. Facebook announced that it would ban more drug-related hashtags from Instagram as part of its attempt to police its social media platforms. The company banned several drug-related hashtags such as #OxyContin and others. By banning a larger number of common hashtags and key phrases that relate to sales, the platform hopes to reduce the number of drug-related posts and to make its site less attractive to drug dealers. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company should be doing more to fight illegal drug sales, and he expressed his willingness to explore more options to accomplish that in the coming months. With social media sites facing more pressure from activist groups and law enforcement agencies to crack down on social media drug trafficking, anti-drug campaigns and drug addiction treatment centers are hopeful that the fight against opioid abuse will gain more momentum.
If you or someone you know is using social media to purchase drugs, we can help put an end to these unhealthy habits. Our professional staff at Springboard Recovery is here to assist you in your recovery. Contact us today.