Eventbrite recommendation algorithm promotes illegal opioid sales

Occurred: May 2024

Thousands of Eventbrite posts were discovered selling escort services and opioid drugs like Xanax, some of which were recommended by the company’s recommendation algorithm.

A WIRED investigation revealed that Eventbrite’s recommendation algorithm was selling escort services and drugs like Xanax and Oxycodone. Some of these illegal listings were recommended by the company’s algorithm alongside addiction recovery events. 

In addition, over 7,400 events published on the platform appeared to violate one or more of Eventbrite’s terms.

Critics argued that these listings prey on people trying to recover from addiction. Eventbrite responded by saying that listings of this kind had no place on its platform and that it took the issue seriously. The identified illegal and illicit activity were later removed.

The finding raised questions about Eventbrite governance, including its ability to manage its recommendation system effectively. 

System 🤖

Documents 📃

Operator: Eventbrite
Developer: Eventbrite
Country: USA
Sector: Health
Purpose: Recommend content
Technology: Recommendation system
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Ethics/values; Safety
Transparency: Governance