Thu, 23 May 2019

Facebook using AI to find drug dealers on its platform

By Sheetal Sukhija, Silicon Valley News
16 Nov 2018, 01:34 GMT+10

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - In a bid to join in America's war against the addition crisis, the world's largest social networking site, Facebook has now unveiled its efforts.

According to Facebook, it has been using Artificial Intelligence in a bid to spot drug dealers on its own site and on that of its subsidiary, Instagram.

Facebook has revealed that its efforts aimed at stopping the use of its platform by people trying to opioids involve the use of a "proactive detection" technology.

The technology reportedly allows the platforms to remove drug-related images before it has been seen or reported by users.

Kevin Martin, head of U.S. public policy at Facebook explained in a blog post, "Weve begun to roll out proactive detection on Facebook and Instagramto take down more content that violates our policies before people may see or report it. Our technology is able to detect content that includes images of drugs and depicts the intent to sell with information such as price, phone numbers or usernames for other social media accounts."

According to Martin, this has freed up human moderators to look at pages, groups, hashtags and trends which may be linked to drug use.

Facebook has pointed out that it is working with experts from the University of Alabama in Birmingham to crack down on drug dealers.

Martin added, "We will continue investing in technology to keep illicit drug sales off our platforms, to raise awareness and increase education, and to connect people with help and resources.

He said that Facebook's efforts were focussed on using the technology to make finding help for those struggling with drug addiction easier.

The company said that if a Facebook or Instagram user now searches for information on drugs on either platform, they would be redirected to helplines and resources on treatment and education.

According to reports, Facebook's efforts are part of joint action launched by social media platforms that are aiming to fight addition.

Earlier this week, social media platforms announced the formation of a new group called 'Tech Together to Fight the Opioid Crisis,' and apart from Facebook and its subsidiaries, the group also includes Google and Twitter.

The group was launched at an event organized by the U.S. nonprofit the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.

Speaking at the event, Susan Molinari, who leads policy and government relations at Google revealed that 50,000 searches about specific opioid drugs were made each day on the search engine.

Molinari said, "We know overwhelmingly the people who are searching for help are the parents or family members of opioid users, so we know that if we can push them toward organizations like the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, then we're getting them instant connections."

She also revealed that YouTube was also hosting adverts using recovered drug users to promote charities that offer help to addicts.

Earlier this year, figures published by official bodies suggested that 2017 was the worst-ever year for drug overdose deaths in the U.S.

According to the figures, 72,000 people are believed to have died due to drug related overdose in the U.S. last year.

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