New Study Reveals Instagram Can Be Very Easily Exploited By Minors In Order To Find Drugs And Other Such Illicit Substances

A report by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) reveals that Instagram has made it far too easy for young individuals on the platform to find and purchase drugs.

An online social media site with billions of users, owned by a company that clearly takes a profit over safety approach towards its community, has a drug problem on its hands? Wow, am I completely surprised by this turn of events, and would never have ever anticipated it. Unless we count the literal mountain heap of evidence that was presented by Meta whistleblower Frances Haugen. She has spent hours shouting “these guys are bad; they promote content that’s harmful for the sake of personal gain”. In fact, my optimism towards the likes of Meta ever being held fully accountable for its actions has long since waned. Facebook and the like have been at the brunt of controversy after controversy for years, have endured Congressional hearings, lawsuits from different countries, and still keep chugging on. What’s one to do?

Of course, managing a platform that has a billion different individuals on it is hardly an easy task, and at some point moderation does seem like setting oneself up for failure. However, there’s a huge difference between some shady organization discussing plots and plans via code, and a couple of teenagers looking to get high on crack. Then again, if a major part of the US Capitol Riots could have been planned across Facebook without anyone noticing, there’s not much hope left for Instagram either. The Tech Transparency Project felt the very same, and therefore decided to test a hypothesis; that kids on the platform could very easily manage to access and buy drugs.

It’s not as if such a report was spun up out of the blue. As a matter of fact, rumors regarding such happenings have been at the center of news articles before as well. Now, we have some empirical truth to back such claims up. TTP’s findings were as such: while Instagram has banned hashtags such as #mdma or #molly, the app rather hilariously doesn’t account for users typing in #mdmamolly. What’s worse is that the platform’s well curated search algorithm meant that one could very easily find drug dealers with just that hashtag. Autocomplete options would often redirect users towards other notable hashtags as well.

If TTP’s research team followed the account of an alleged drug dealer, Instagram’s recommendation algorithm would end up suggesting further such individuals on the platform. TTP even reported 50 of these accounts, out of which 36 were found to simply not violate Community Guidelines, and only one was actually banned.

Bottom line: it’s scarily easy to access drugs on Instagram. Not only can one easily find dealers themselves, the app recommends them to you.

Read next: New features for the protection of teens on Instagram has been announced
Previous Post Next Post