The second session of the EGM on the Trafficking of Dangerous Substances through Internet-related Services continues with a focus on the exploitation of social media platforms

On 7-8 July 2020, INCB continued with the second session of its expert group meeting on the trafficking of dangerous substances through Internet-related services. The focus this time lay on trafficking on social media platforms and the strategies used by the respective social media company as well as the law enforcement to prevent the exploitation of these platforms. The first session in the meeting series was held on 30 June - 1 July 2020 and dealt with illegal online pharmacies and other 'rogue' websites that enable online trafficking.

Mr. Tuna Bozalan from the INCB's GRIDS Programme opened the first day of the second session by sharing the results of INCB's internet monitoring activities conducted in the past few months. With regard to the recent modus operandi of online drug traffickers, Mr. Bozalan noted: "What we have been witnessing on social media and e-commerce platforms are identical trends. INCB has a long history of public-private partnerships and we see a big potential in leveraging the experiences of different actors within this sphere".

Invited representatives from the Internet-service sector outlined how they tackle the issue of being exploited for trafficking purposes. Mr. Cristian Perella from Facebook described the company's three-pronged approach in preventing and reducing the number of incidents involving illicit substances on its platforms. He particularly underlined the importance of cooperation with other private and public actors to more efficiently detect trafficking activities - not least as these often move between platforms. Google's similar multi-tier approach to counter problems such as 'injection hacking', whereby e.g. legitimate health care websites get hacked to display ads of illegal drugs for sale, was explained by its opioid epidemic response team, represented by Mr. Michael Trinh.

Mr. Sello Moerane and Ms. Zandra Nuruzzaman from INTERPOL further highlighted the advantages of social media monitoring - among other social media mining as a particularly proactive tool - in obtaining intelligence and data for policing algorithms.

The second day of the session allowed national law enforcement agencies from Austria, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom and United States of America to exchange experiences of and strategies used in countering drug trafficking through Internet-related services. All panelists reiterated the need for close and systematic collaboration between government authorities and private sector partners. Mr. Anton Leenders from the Dutch National Police noted that "a multilateral approach is a must in this day and age when drug problems are no longer national but global". This was echoed by Ms. Amy Warren from the US Drug Enforcement Agency, who noted the positive outcomes of interagency as well as international partnerships in dismantling transnational criminal organizations. In this context, Mr. Erich Vlasaty from the Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service expressed his appreciation for "the efforts that the INCB has been making for years to promote operational response to dangerous substances, including in the field of information/ intelligence exchange and the promotion of operational cooperation worldwide".

Insightful case-specific examples to illustrate the exploitation of social media and other Internet-related services for drug trafficking purposes were given by officers from the Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea and the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Andreas Gruber from Internet Service Provider Austria raised the important point of mutual trust in public-private partnerships. He observed that for both sides, "it is paramount to continuously work on mastering the ever-rising practical challenges and to explore examples of good practices such as the installation of single points of contact". Multi-stakeholder meetings such as the EGM were "key to build trust on both sides, overcome these hurdles together and to find solutions on an international level."

Around 50 experts from all over the world participated in this second session of the EGM. In the upcoming third session, legal and policy issues related to public-private partnerships will be covered. The meeting will end with the adoption of recommendations on Thursday 16 July 2020.

INCB expresses its gratitude to the Government of Canada and the Government of Japan for the generous project funding.

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