Instagram offers Xanax, exctasy, opioid 'pipeline' to kids

Occurred: December 2021

Accounts advertising the sale to youngsters of Xanax, ecstasy, opioids and other drugs were widespread and easy to find on Instagram, according to a report by advocacy group Tech Transparency Project (TTP). 

The discovery demonstrates the ease with which the illegal sales of drugs were available to children on the platform, and shows the challenges Meta faced in enforcing its own policies.

TTP set up seven Instagram accounts appearing to belong to users between the ages of 13 to 17, and discovered the accounts were easily able to navigate to pages openly advertising the sale of illicit or pharmaceutical drugs. 

Furthermore, in some cases purported drug dealers reached out to the teenage accounts through direct messages or Instagram voice calls after they began following them.

The report also found that while Instagram bans some drug-related hashtags, other similar ones were still readily available. Meta later said it had blocked certain hashtags on Instagram and was reviewing others for potential violations of its policies. 

Operator: Meta/Instagram
Developer: Meta/Instagram

Country: USA

Sector: Health

Purpose: Recommend content

Technology: Recommendation algorithm  
Issue: Safety; Ethics

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️

Research, advocacy 🧮