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Instagram has a drug problem. Its algorithms make it worse.

Instagram has a drug problem. Its algorithms make it worse.

The Washington Post

Elizabeth Dwoskin

Instagram is known for its celebrity posts and photos of enviable vacations. But it has also become a sizable open marketplace for advertising illegal drugs. The company has pledged a crackdown in recent weeks, but it is struggling to keep pace with its own algorithms and systems, which serve up an array of personalized drug-related content aimed directly at people who show an interest in buying substances illicitly.

Recent searches on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, for hashtags of the names of drugs — such as #oxy, #percocet, #painkillers, #painpills, #oxycontin, #adderall and #painrelief — revealed thousands of posts by a mash-up of people grappling with addiction, those bragging about their party­going lifestyle and enticements from drug dealers.

Following the dealer accounts, or even liking one of the dealer posts, prompted Instagram’s algorithms to work as designed — in this case, by filling up a person’s feed with posts for drugs, suggesting other sellers to follow and introducing new hashtags, such as #xansforsale. Ads from some of the country’s largest brands, including Target, Chase and Procter & Gamble, as well as Facebook’s own video streaming service, appeared next to posts illegally selling pills.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/instagram-has-a-drug-problem-its-algorithms-make-it-worse/2018/09/25/c45bf730-bdbf-11e8-b7d2-0773aa1e33da_story.html?utm_term=.f309091fea84