Deal­ing drugs on­line

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion - BY: NINI CABAERO

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.

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