Illicit drugs and social media

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International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), an UN-backed body, has called on governments to do more to regulate social media platforms that glamourize drug-related negative behavior and boost sales of controlled substances. In its annual report, the INCB notes increasing evidence of a link between exposure to social media and drug use, which disproportionately affects young people, the main users of social media platforms, and an age group with relatively high rates of drug abuse. The report also calls on the private sector to moderate and self-regulate their platforms and limit the advertisement and promotion of the non-medical use of drugs. As well as social media platforms, criminals are exploiting many other digital tools, such as digital currencies, mobile payments, and e-wallet services, which make the international transfer of funds easier and faster, and allow them to hide the origins of illegal funds and maximize profits. Organized crime rings continue to rake in millions of dollars from drug trafficking, warns the INCB report, with negative consequences for societies and economic development, ranging from corruption and bribery to increased organized crime, violence, poverty, and inequality. To counter the negative effects and human cost of the trade, the organization recommends that governments address all stages of drug trafficking – from production and cultivation to sale, and concealment of illegal profits – and share intelligence on organized crime at an international level. These flows divert resources away from initiatives to reduce poverty and promote social and economic development, which is having a disproportionate effect on developing countries, where there is the greatest need for funds to promote economic growth and reduce inequality.

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