If you’re in the mood to ramble about the “good old days,” don’t forget that technology makes life infinitely easier. Nowadays, you can buy light bulbs from Amazon at the touch of a button with one-click ordering. You can connect with your BFF from middle school on Facebook. You can also buy illegal drugs with a quick hashtag search on Instagram.
Yes, you heard that right. Instagram is home to a rampant drug problem, beyond the constant stream of what you had for dinner last night and what your adorable kid is doing this very moment. One of these things is not like the other.
VentureBeat took the time to sniff out Instagram’s drug trade. Turns out all you need is a basic understanding of how hashtags work to get your hands on the illegal substance you’re looking for: “With a quick hashtag search you can find anything you want, be it stolen, extracted, grown, prescribed, synthesized, or harvested.”
This is alarming. It also isn’t news to Instagram. Instagram has already blocked several drug-specific hashtags from appearing in user searches. But the drug trade is ever changing. Drug slang and street names are hard to pin down for the purpose of site moderation.
Public drug trade on a photo-sharing app like Instagram seems risky — because it is. VentureBeat highlights how our beloved technology can come back to bite drug sellers in the ass. Because of smartphone data triangulation through localized cell towers, sloppy drug dealers “have geotagged themselves into handcuffs.”
The best drug dealers on Instagram have found a loophole in the mobile-posting app requirement. Stealthy Instagram drug trade involves an inexpensive, new laptop and a guest OS window provided by VirtualBox. To pull off an Instagram drug deal without getting caught, dealers have to be tech savvy. They must download an Android OS emulator in VirtualBox as well as a VPN. Once the Instagram app has been downloaded in this mock phone setup, an undercover drug deal on a public forum is possible.
There is a huge virtual drug market on the same app you are using to post pictures of your food, pets and kids. Right now, Instagram is complacent. The app is relying on users who flag drug-related images to crack down on burner dealer accounts.
Essentially Instagram is working on the honor system. A user caught sharing “illegal content” will get a slap on the wrist — their account may be disabled for violating community guidelines. Instagram prohibits drug trade, but it’s still happening. Instead of relying on users to police drug sellers, Instagram needs to start taking moderation seriously.
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