Social Media Used to Sell Drugs to Youth
The International Narcotics Board (INCB) highlighted the social problems caused by illegal online pharmacies today in their annual report. An alarming trend the INCB sees is the use of social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook to reach out to young people to market these online pharmacies.
According to the Chicago Tribune, India is one of the leading countries of origin for these illicit, and often counterfeit substances accounting for 58% of substances seized, with the United States, China, and Poland also accounting for a large portion.
The report warns that marginalized communities like young people are particularly vulnerable to these sales attempts, and that illegal pharmacies are "part of a vicious cycle involving a wide array of social problems such as violence, organized crime, corruption, unemployment, poor health and poor education".
The report offers advice to governments on how to shut down illegal pharmacies, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime emphasizes that "key activities of illegal Internet pharmacies include the smuggling of products to consumers, finding hosting space for their websites and convincing consumers that they are, in fact, legitimate."
While some of these sites have been shut down and are operating in plain site, making it easier to identify and shut them down, drug and paraphernalia site the Silk Road is only accessible through an encrypted connection and isn't easy to get to. As Wired News points out:
Getting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don’t point your browser there yet. It’s only accessible through the anonymizing network, TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.
While it is important that the international community is aware of the use of Facebook and YouTube to promote illegal sites, the Silk Road is a cautionary tale of how law enforcement may always be fighting the last war.