The Sideshow

Instagram moves to stop illegal drug sales on its site

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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Drug dealers are turning to social media sites like Instagram looking for customers (AFP)

It turns out the onslaught of selfies aren’t the biggest crime on the hugely popular photo-sharing site Instagram. The site has also recently unwittingly become host to a black market for drug trade.

A number of individuals have been using Instagram to sell illegal drugs, posting pictures of their product and allowing prospective buyers to contact them through the site. And with reports of the drug sales now making the rounds, Instagram says it has implemented a set of filters to block the illegal activity.

The Instagram activity may at least partially be in response to the shutdown of the Silk Road site. In October, the FBI shut down Silk Road, a site that had become a hub of illegal sales. Silk Road was primarily used to distribute narcotics but also was a hot bed of illegal sales for weapons and virtually any item someone in the world was willing to pay money for. Earlier this week, a mirror site recently went online attempting to resurrect the Silk Road model.

An investigation into drug sales via Instagram by the BBC found that dealers would post images of their product linked to key hashtags, which prospective buyers could use to locate an associated account.

In response, Instagram says it has taken steps to block certain specific searches that have been tied to the illegal sales.

"Instagram has a clear set of rules about what is and isn't allowed on the site," an Instagram spokeswoman told the BBC.

In fact, as the spokeswoman noted, the site isn’t even designed for transactions, whether or not they are legal.

"People can't buy things on Instagram; we are simply a place where people share photos and videos," she said.

Of course, as Business Insider recently noted, it’s not difficult to find an Instagram page featuring illegal activity being documented by the site’s millions of users.

An earlier investigation from the site Noisy found that not only were individuals selling drugs on Instagram but some of them were even using emoji to threaten violence against others users in conjunction with those sales.

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