According to the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a research initiative for watchdog organization Campaign for Accountability, Instagram allows minors to find illegal controlled substances such as Xanax, Ecstasy, and opioids for sale.
As part of their investigation into how this happens, TTP set up fake teen accounts and discovered that underage users of the popular app could easily search for illegal drugs as well as connect with drug dealers who claim to sell them. The TTP refers to drug dealers as accounts that offer nonmedical and pharmaceutical drugs for sale.
This is what Katie Paul, director of TTP had to say to NBC “It takes 20 seconds to connect with a purported drug trafficker. The accounts are telling you they are children. That’s the most shocking thing. The platform’s business model clearly relies on being able to access younger users. If they are unable to do that without pushing kids to these risks, that requires a much deeper investigation from lawmakers.”
While it takes 5 clicks for an Instagram user to log out of their account, TTP alleges that it takes just 2 clicks to reach an account claiming to sell Xanax or Fentanyl.
In response to the revelations by the watchdog Stephanie Otway, a spokesperson for Meta, Instagram's parent company, said “We prohibit drug sales on Instagram. We removed 1.8 million pieces of content related to drug sales in the last quarter alone, and due to our improving detection technology, the prevalence of such content is about 0.05 percent of content viewed, or about 5 views per every 10,000. We’ll continue to improve in this area in our ongoing efforts to keep Instagram safe, particularly for our youngest community members.”
Recently, Instagram announced new initiatives to help for a safer user experience. They include parental controls that will help limit the time kids spend on the app, options to stop people from tagging those who are ages 16 and under if those people do not follow them as well as a "take a break" feature.