Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google are a great way to stay connected with family and friends. They are apparently also a great way to also sell illicit and dangerous performance-enhancement drugs — almost risk-free.
The illicit and growing cottage industry offers drug dealers a certain amount of anonymity, reducing the risk of getting caught peddling their wares in the open or having those illegal drugs on them.
The study also found drug dealers are turning more and more to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
According to the Washington Post, the study conducted by Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) and cyber-intelligence firm GIPEC found more than 100 examples of appearance and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs) being either sold or marketed on social media, websites in the first half of 2019. The DCA and GiPEC described their findings as “startling.”
The report reads, “The scheme uncovered by DCA during a six-month investigation is simple: drug dealers advertise their ‘product’ online and digital platforms turn a blind eye to illegal drug sales and promotions on their sites.”
The study also involved the DCA directly purchasing drugs online from a suspected Chinese source promoting its product line through Facebook. Once the drugs arrived, they were then analogized and found that they contained traces of potentially harmful steroids. In another sting type operation, DCA purchased what was described as being a human growth hormone (HGH), however, once the substance was tested in the lab, it proved to be fake.
The report also noted that social media platforms, in particular, Facebook and YouTube are being used by drug dealers around the globe to sell and distribute performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs), the report additionally found “APED dealers in some cases also offered access to opioids, drugs that have fueled an epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in the last decade.”
According to the Washington Post, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all prohibit illicit drugs being sold on their respective platforms, however as recently as this week, according to DCA illicit drugs were still being sold unopposed.
The illicit scheme directs users to one website page and then another, for example a Facebook page called “Landmarkchem Raw steroid powders, HGH, peptides & semi-finished for sale” sold a variety of drugs using the platform’s “Shop Now” button, which directed users to another Facebook page under the name of “Lucky Li,” which listed an email and Skype username for people to contact for inquiries, the Washington Post reported.
One twitter follower noted, “Other than the fact the page was called “we’re selling steroids, how could Facebook have tracked that this page was selling steroids?”
— Adam Smith (@asmith83) September 16, 2019
The report in their findings also alluded to the same problem stating, “Social media platforms seem to only take down illegal and/ or illicit content when it becomes a PR problem — not for the good of their users.”
DCA Executive Director Tom Galvin told the Washington Post that “parents should know” social media don’t police access to these kinds of drugs, and kids are “gaining access to this online on sites that are mainstream.”
Crystal Davis spokesperson for Facebook also acknowledged that their company’s Community Standards “make it very clear that buying, selling or trading drugs, which include steroids, is not allowed anywhere on Pages, in advertising, or anywhere else on Facebook.”
By contrast, YouTube took a more direct approach to the growing problem by removing an estimated 90,000 video clips, in breach of their “harmful or dangerous policy” standards in just the first 3-months of 2019, that’s quite an impressive achievement and one that the others might emulate.
“We’ve been investing in the policies, resources, and products needed to live up to our responsibility and protect the YouTube community from harmful content,” YouTube spokesman Farshad Shadloo told the Washington Post.