What Are Social Media Platforms Doing to Protect Children from Purchasing Drugs?

What Are Social Media Platforms Doing to Protect Children from Purchasing Drugs?

Social media plays a major role in what children are exposed to and, in turn, how they think about certain issues—including recreational drug use. In large part, this is because parents have almost no ability to monitor or restrict their child’s social media activity, other than preventing a child from using social media altogether, which may not be possible for older children who have unfettered access to computers and cell phones.

The major social media platforms side with parents—at least in their verbiage—that children should not be exposed to drugs through social media. And while all social media platforms have release blanket statements that posts and comments on illegal drug use are not allowed, platforms have taken different approaches when it comes to enforcement.

Facebook’s Illegal Drug Policy

Facebook takes a multifaceted approach when it comes to preventing posts and comments focused on the sale of illegal drugs. For example, the platform blocks certain terms associated with drug use and drug sales from appearing in “suggested” content. Facebook also requires any company advertising addiction treatment services first obtain certification to ensure its legitimacy. The platform has also developed technology that allows its automatic filter to read text that appears in images, which drug dealers sometimes use to get around text-based filters. Facebook also makes it relatively easy to report any violating posts. Facebook also created a page informing users on how to report drug-related content.

Instagram’s Illegal Drug Policy

Meta, the parent company of both Facebook and Instagram, has implemented similar protections on Instagram as on Facebook (discussed above). However, because children tend to favor Instagram over Facebook, Instagram seems to have a gibber problem with children and drugs. Instagram has computerized filters that constantly scour the platform’s content as well as human reviewers who look for posts and comments that are related to the sale of drugs. For example, Instagram will remove any post that involves the “buying or selling non-medical or pharmaceutical drugs” or “admits to personal use (unless in the recovery context) or coordinates or promotes the use of non-medical drugs.” Instagram also allows users to report drug-related content, which varies based on the type of content.

TikTok’s Illegal Drug Policy

Tiktok’s Community Guidelines prohibits “the depiction, promotion, or trade of drugs or other controlled substances.” To enforce this, the platform instructs users not to post, upload, stream or share any content that “depicts or promotes drugs, drug consumption,” “offers the purchase, sale, trade, or solicitation of drugs or other controlled substances,” “provides information on how to buy illegal or controlled substances,” and “depicts or promotes the misuse of legal substances, or instruction on how to make homemade substances, in an effort to become intoxicated.” TikTok also provides an easy way for users to report any drug-related content, by long-clicking on the video and selecting “report.”

Snap Chat’s Illegal Drug Policy

Snap Chat’s position on drugs is straightforward in that the platform’s Community Guidelines inform users not to “use Snapchat for any illegal activities — including to buy or sell illegal drugs, contraband, counterfeit goods, or illegal weapons.” However, this is the extent of the information provided on the topic. Snap Chat encourages users to report any violative content through its general Support form.

YouTube’s Illegal Drug Policy

YouTube has restrictions in place intended to prevent certain drug-related content and prevent drug dealers from reaching minors. For example, YouTube prohibits any content involving “hard drug use or creation,” which includes content that shows users consuming hard drugs, making hard drugs, minors consuming drugs or alcohol, selling hard or soft drugs, or steroid use. YouTube also provides that anyone who is found to be selling drugs through links on their channels will have their channel terminated.

Twitch’s Illegal Drug Policy

While Twitch created a lengthy set of Community Guidelines, only a small portion of the Guidelines are dedicated to the company’s illegal drug policy. Under the “Self-Destructive Behavior” heading, Twitch notes that users may not show or promote any content involving the “use of hard drugs and substances not fit for human consumption (e.g., tide pods, bleach).” Or the misuse of legal substances, such as prescription drugs. Additionally, Twitch prohibits users from posting content showing the purchase or sale of illegal drugs. Twitch also restricts users from including certain words in their selected usernames, such as those related to recreational drug use, hard drugs, and drug abuse. However, there is an exception for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.