A bill requiring social media companies, providers of encrypted communications, and other online services to report drug activity on their platforms to the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) advanced to the Senate floor, alarming privacy advocates who claim the legislation transforms businesses into de facto drug enforcement agents and exposes many of them to liability for providing end-to-end encryption.
Why is there a requirement for online companies to report drug activity?
The reason behind the bill is that there was a Kansas teenager died after unknowingly taking a fentanyl-laced pill he purchased on Snapchat. The bill requires social media companies and other web communication providers to provide the DEA with users’ names and other information when the companies have “actual knowledge” that illicit drugs are being distributed on their platforms.
There is an urgent need to look into this matter as platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are the constant applications that netizens use. If these kinds of apps promote the selling of drugs, then it will result in major drug-selling vehicles and become drug-selling platforms.
Threat to end to end encryption
End-to-end encryption has long been criticised by law enforcement for creating a “lawless space” that criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors can exploit for their illicit purposes. End- to end encryption is important for privacy, but it has been criticised as criminals also use it for bad purposes that result in cyber fraud and cybercrimes.
Cases of drug peddling on social media platforms
It is very easy to get drugs on social media, just like calling an Uber. It is that simple to get the drugs. The survey discovered that access to illegal drugs is “staggering” on social media applications, which has contributed to the rising number of fentanyl overdoses, which has resulted in suicide, gun violence, and accidents.
According to another survey, drug dealers use slang, emoticons, QR codes, and disappearing messages to reach customers while avoiding content monitoring measures on social networking platforms. Drug dealers are frequently active on numerous social media platforms, advertising their products on Instagram while providing their WhatApps or Snapchat names for queries, making it difficult for law officials to crack down on the transactions.
There is a need for social media platforms to report these kinds of drug-selling activity on specific platforms to the Drug enforcement administration. The bill requires online companies to report drug cases going on websites, such as the above-mentioned Snapchat case. There are so many other cases where drug dealers sell the drug through Instagram, Snapchat etc. Usually, if Instagram blocks one account, they create another account for the drug selling. Just by only blocking the account does not help to stop drug trafficking on social media platforms.
Will this put the privacy of users at risk?
It is important to report the cybercrime activities of selling drugs on social media platforms. The companies will only detect the activity regarding the drugs which are being sold through social media platforms which are able to detect bad actors and cyber criminals. The detection will be on the particular activities on the applications where it is happening because the social media platforms lack regulations to govern them, and their convenience becomes the major vehicle for the drugs sale.
Social media companies are required to report these kinds of activities happening on their platforms immediately to the Drugs enforcement Administration so that the DEA will take the required steps instead of just blocking the account. Because just blocking does not stop these drug markets from happening online. There must be proper reporting for that. And there is a need for social media regulations. Social media platforms mostly influence people.
Author:Himanshi Singh, Associate, Policy & Advocacy team, CyberPeace