According to a new report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), Instagram is endangering teenagers by providing a conduit for illegal drugs like Xanax and MDMA. TTP used a series of fake accounts to test the safeguards in place on Instagram to protect teenagers from illicit drugs as part of its investigation.
According to a TTP investigation, the social media platform allows teen users as young as 13 to find potentially deadly drugs for sale in just two clicks, raising further concerns about the platform’s dangers to children.
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A hypothetical teen-only needed two clicks to reach an account selling Xanax, according to the investigation. The teen, on the other hand, took more than double the number of clicks, five, to log out of Instagram, according to the research company.
In addition, when a teen account followed a drug dealer on Instagram, the platform began recommending other drug dealers. Surprisingly, drug dealers advertise “openly on Instagram,” offering a variety of pills to people of all ages, including the opioid Oxycontin.
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The company pointed out that “many of these dealers directly mention drugs in their account names to advertise their services.” This news comes as Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, prepares to testify before a Senate panel this week about the platform’s negative effects on children.
TTP’s investigation involved the creation of 7 teen accounts: one for a 13-year-old, two for 14-year-olds, two for 15-year-olds, and two for 17-year-olds.
There were no profile photos or information on the accounts, and they didn’t post any of their own content. Some of the accounts used the names of fictional characters from popular television shows, such as Lisa Simpson from “The Simpsons” and Michael Scarn, a personality on “The Office” who plays Michael Scott.
Instagram’s Community Guidelines state that “buying or selling non-medical or pharmaceutical drugs is prohibited.” In a statement to NBC News, Stephanie Otway, a spokesperson for Instagram parent company Meta, said the platform prohibits drug sales.
“In our ongoing efforts to keep Instagram safe, particularly for our youngest community members,” says the company, “we’ll continue to improve in this area.”
Meanwhile, following revelations from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, the platform, which is now owned by Facebook parent company Meta, has been criticised and scrutinised for its impact on young people’s mental health.