Instagram, the new age silk road to trade in drugs

INSTAGRAM – The new Silk Road of the internet

Instagram the innocuous looking and one of the most popular image sharing website is emerging as the next Silk Road in drug trade.  Yes, a blog report by VentureBeat analyses the rampant use of Instagram by drug traders on the internet without any interference from the law.

Thousands of accounts — perhaps many more — are currently selling marijuana, prescription pills, ecstasy, and other narcotics in the Internet equivalent of an open-air drug market. It operates like the notorious Silk Road (a marketplace for anonymous, and often illicit, trade) — except it’s a thousand times more user-friendly, and it hasn’t been shut down.

As per the VentureBeat blog, the drugs are being sold across the internet by the sellers by mixing them up with the thousands of photo and video posts. The drug mafia have a large market free of legal hassles as Instagram has around  200 million and growing active users. These posts are not even blurred, age-gate or sequestered for normal users.  This means that even those who are not into drugs can come across these images selling the drugs.  This brand of market is growing and growing exponentially but Facebook, the Instagram’s owner  has not even publicly acknowledged it.

VentureBeat goes on to give the example of ease of search for the drugs.

 You are to just do a hashtag search — try “#xanax,” for example. You’ll be greeted by a list of hashtags spanning more than 100,000 images just for this particular substance. Many of these images are “legitimate” inasmuch as they just portray drug use. But mixed within are posts with product for sale. With an untraceable money transfer or Bitcoin transaction, you can have a shipment on your doorstep in days, via the U.S. Post Office or other delivery service. Some users even claim to deliver overnight.

It also says that the drugs sales are in no way incidental or isolated.  A typical drug search result throws up hundreds of results indicating how deeply this problem has penetrated Instagram. The drug sellers are using innovative methods to reach out to their customers.

Often these accounts employ hashtags that don’t relate to their business. Some use benign, popular tags like #instagood, or #ifollowback, or even pop ephemera like #rihanna. Sometimes it’s an appeal to target demographics. Sometimes it’s a wide net cast to catch as many eyeballs as possible. In a word, this is marketing.

VentureBeat reached out to Facebook pointing them to this illegal use of Instagram for drug sales.  However, Facebook’s comment was reactive and stereotypical one.

We encourage people who come across content that they believe violates our terms to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo or video on Instagram. A dedicated team reviews these reports and removes the content if it violates our guidelines.

By bringing this drug abuse of Instagram to the notice of general users as well as Facebook, VentureBeat has done a great service.  Now it remains to be seen is how Instagram and Facebook deal with this new age Silk Road type problem they have on their hands.  Another question is how do the law enforcement authorities deal with this new problem.

Resource : VentureBeat

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