Instagram’s new owner, Facebook, is trying to put a stop to the use of Instagram as a virtual drug store by blocking certain hashtags and terms used by drug dealers to advertise their wares.
For example, blocked phrases like bad hashtag, was an actual term used to promote illegal sales. In fact, not only are Instagram hashtags helping drug dealers sell hash, mobile phones and apps like Snapchat make it easier to do make quick, cashless exchanges using Green Dot, an anonymous, cashless pre-paid debit card available at any 7-11.
Obviously selling drugs a criminal offense, but selling anything on the social photo site is against Instagram’s user agreement policy. A Facebook spokesperson told the BBC, “People can’t buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos.” It’s probably a wise move, since Facebook will probably want to retain selling rights on their own websites.
Since The internet is a vast sprawling network, law enforcement is hoping that public websites like Instagram will police their own users, but they’re not the only source of illicit activity on the web. After a few weeks of being offline, the internet’s illegal drug market, Silk Road came back online despite obviously being on the FBI’s hit list. Silk Road’s founder and pirate, Ross William Ulbright was arrested last month and is now facing charges of narcotics trafficking, money laundering, computer hacking, and attempted murder just to name a few.
While current drug sales are predominantly based in the US, social sites like Facebook are not exactly criminal free elsewhere, especially south of the border where Mexico’s drug cartels are taking advantage of social networks to promote themselves and track targets. Mexico’s Knights’ Templar Facebook page was shut down after over 10,000 likes, but members from the group maintained personal accounts where they regularly posted gun-toting selfies. They are notoriously good at PR and use technology to find enemies, who are then violently eliminated. Even hacker group Anonymous have backed off from attacking Mexico’s technologically advanced drug cartels, because they were threatened by the cartel’s private security specialists.
It’s likely that Americans operating in the continental US is safe to flag drug dealers, but since Vice Magazine published its expose on Instagram’s drug dealers, he’s been receiving death threats.