- Drug dealers are using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube to sell illicit appearance and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs).
- The Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) and cyber-intelligence firm GiPEC purchased some of the drugs being promoted on these sites and found some drugs contained potentially harmful steroids or were altogether fake.
- The social media sites’ policies state it is illegal to sell drugs on their respective platforms.
Drug dealers are turning to social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to sell steroids, which can only legally be purchased with a prescription.
Research by internet safety group 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 Washington Post reported Monday.
DCA and GiPEC described their findings as “startling.”
Exclusive: Dealers are peddling steroids on social networks like Facebook and YouTube, raising questions about how well companies are policing their sites https://t.co/XZOAIyonf0
— Cat Zakrzewski (@Cat_Zakrzewski) September 16, 2019
“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 report reads.
Some of these APEDs, which DCA purchased from a Chinese source promoting its product through Facebook as part of the study, contained traces of potentially harmful steroids. Another human growth hormone (HGH) drug DCA purchased was tested in a lab and determined to be fake.
Facebook and Google’s YouTube platform have been used to promote and sell APEDs, the study found. Additionally, “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,” the report notes.
APED sales were discovered on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram — all of which prohibit illicit drug sales in their terms of service — as recently as this week, according to WaPo.
One Facebook page called “Landmarkchem Raw steroid powders, HGH, peptides & semifinished 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, WaPo reported.
— Adam Smith (@asmith83) September 16, 2019
“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,” the report said.
DCA Executive Director Tom Galvin told WaPo 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.”
Facebook spokeswoman Crystal Davis said the 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.”
YouTube took more active measures, telling WaPo it removed 90,000 videos in breach of its “harmful or dangerous policy” standards in the first three months of 2019.
“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 WaPo.
Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said Twitter’s existing policies make it clear the platform can’t be used for “any unlawful purpose or in furtherance of illegal activities.”
DCA’s report comes after Facebook came under fire when The Wall Street Journal reported in August that Facebook users were selling guns on the website’s second-hand shop feature, Marketplace, against Facebook policy by listing gun cases or boxes for the price of actual guns.
Fifteen Democratic senators sent a letter to the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, demanding more information regarding the latent sale of firearms on Facebook Marketplace, a practice the company called a “clear violation” of policies.
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