Instagram has started blocking searches for phrases and words associated with drug sales after a BBC investigation.
A new social media investigative series from the BBC called #BBCtrending has uncovered photos and videos of drug sales accompanied by textual adverts on Instagram. The BBC say the majority of the drug-related content and activity seems to be taking place in the U.S., with photos of pills, crystals of MDMA and other amphetamine-related substances being accompanied with price listings and timings of shippings. It also appears that many of these social media based drug deals are being finalised through other apps like Whatsapp and Kik.
Instagram has a policy of depending on its users to report inappropriate content and say that it would be “invasive” and “impractical” to actively search for such content themselves. Instagram is owned by Facebook, who is no stranger to controversy over which content is and isn’t allowed on the site, as it currently allows beheading videos to be uploaded and shared.
A spokesperson for Instagram has said:
“Instagram has a clear set of rules about what is and isn’t allowed on the site. We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action. People can’t buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos.”
Like Facebook, both Google and Yahoo! also rely on its users to report inappropriate or illegal activity rather than actively searching for it. Similar drug advertisements appear in the comments section of YouTube videos and in blog posts on Tumblr.
While Yahoo! say they do not “proactively monitor” Tumblr for drug advertisements, the BBC say that the same searches on Tumblr do not produce the same number of drug-related results as Instagram.