Dealers remain on Instagram as it pushes drug searchers to treatment

It is not necessary to search too much to find Xanax and Fentanyl distributors publishing their phone numbers on Instagram, but at least it is starting to push people towards addiction recovery resources.

Backlash led Instagram to make a superficial blockade of exact drug name hashtag searches in April, which did little to solve the problem, as sellers simply switched to unlocked hashtags such as "#XanaxLife" and "Oxycontins" " Facebook and Instagram could share part of the blame for the massive increase in 2017 in synthetic opiate deaths that skyrocketed from 10,000 to 30,000, according to the Center for Disease Control.

So last month, Facebook started redirecting users who were looking to buy drugs to a box. Can we help you? "If you or someone you know struggles with opioid abuse, we would like to help you find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about the use of nd recovery." The box shows a "Get help" button "that opens the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. But I criticized the company for allowing accounts like "Fentanyl Kingpin Kilo" to continue to operate, even after deleting messages from some Pages and profiles for violating their drug rules.

But the problem is that some people who search for drugs on Instagram are actually looking for help. "Blocking hashtags has its drawbacks – in some cases, we are eliminating the support communities that help people struggling with the opioid or substance abuse," Instagram says.

Now, Instagram will point to users looking for words like "opioids" or "superiors" towards treatment options as well. The most abused and previously blocked hashtags will remain invisible, but the new ones, like the phrases and the synonyms of the names of the drugs, will remain available with this discarded interstitial. An Instagram spokesperson tells me "As part of Instagram's commitment to be the friendliest and safest social network, we are launching a new pop-up window within the application that offers connecting people with information about free and confidential treatment options, as well as information on substance use, prevention and recovery. "

The interstitial says" Can we help? If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate or substance abuse, look for ways to get free and confidential treatment references, as well as information on substance prevention and recovery. "

However, users can choose to "see posts anyway," which makes the interstitial more than a speed bump for those who are inflexible when it comes to finding drugs. "At least Instagram it tells me that it is testing the write-ahead block so that users can not easily discover synonyms and drug phrases that would surface.

These pop-ups will appear when users search for opiates, prescription drugs or illegal hashtags, and the company will add more hashtags to the list over time, they will appear in the US today before launching globally in the coming weeks, and there will also be information available to help the friends and relatives of the affected victims. close partnership with the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Administration, the NCADD and the Association for Drug Free Children to offer these resources, "explained Instagram.

Instagram will have to be vigilant or distributors can win this cat-and-mouse game by constantly switching to new hashtags using variants of drug names, misspellings and synonyms, as well as restarting completed accounts. While it is admirable to try to avoid the closure of victims from support communities, the relatively non-interventionist approach may not discourage addicts. Instagram should also mark users who post drug names and phone numbers as potential distributors. By including accounts that share treatment and support on the whitelist, they could more aggressively pursue the sellers of pills.

"Maintaining Instagram as a safe and open place for people to share their daily lives is very important to us." One of the most inspiring things on Instagram is that people can come together to support each other. use hashtags, comments and more to offer support and find communities that understand the problems they may be struggling with, "says Instagram Public Policy Chief Karina Newton. "The opiate epidemic is a problem that affects millions of people, and we want to use our platform to offer resources to those who need it, in places where they seek help." This is an important step for us in our ongoing commitment to Instagram the friendliest and safest social network. "

Since Instagram has more than one billion users, it is starting to generate serious advertising revenue and is owned by Facebook with a lot of money. , there are few excuses for not applying more content moderation resources to solve this problem. Now it's late and some damage has been done, so Instagram can no longer play with caution. Otherwise, the opioid crisis could become the company's latest scandal.