Dealing drugs online
THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has to do more than call on the public to help monitor posts on social media to call out those who break the law.
It could demand that the platform, Facebook in this case, answer for the use of its service for drug dealing. It should intensify its education campaign to warn Facebook users, majority of them young, not to fall for offers of drugs. It may not be shabu only that is traded online; some say party drugs formed as candies or gummies are also available.
When informed that a man was caught offering shabu for sale online, Assistant Secretary Allan Cabanlong, head of the DICT Cyber Security Bureau, reportedly said the public and media can help report inappropriate posts online.
What more should be done? It is part of the DICT mandate, he said, to monitor cybercrime and coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for illegal drug transactions, and the Philippine National Police for any criminality. Law-abiding citizens and the media must report any suspicious accounts so these can be investigated, he added.
Cabanlong was reacting to the arrest last week of suspected drug pusher John Angel Bantilo who tried to sell shabu on Facebook. “Who wants to buy shabu for P250 for two? We’re on sale as it is a slow day,” one of Bantilo’s posts said in Cebuano. Bantilo, 21, said he is a drug user but he did not use Facebook to trade drugs. It was his former girlfriend who hacked his account and posted those claims.
Even before this incident, there were reports of party drugs, formed as candies, being marketed online. Children are attracted to them and may buy them online, specifically on social media. What is Facebook to do with these? It cannot claim non-interest or no involvement because it is used as a venue for an illegal transaction. Nor can the DICT merely say it would welcome complaints from the public.
Although purchasing online means having a credit card and personal details connected to that card, a child holding credit card details of his parent to allow him to buy books online may stumble on such a post and be tempted to transact.
Internet enforcers can take the cue from the European Union that has imposed strict regulations on Facebook. The consequence of the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica unearthing led to greater expectations of what the platform should undertake to prevent abuse by its users.
The misuse of online spaces, whether for political machinations or for the illegal drug trade, have to be addressed in a coordinated way that includes individual vigilance, platform accountability and earnest efforts at letting the public learn of both the benefits and dangers.
For the DICT to leave it to social media users to report the abuse is like waiting for something to happen before acting on a problem that should be a shared responsibility.