San Francisco: The Meta-owned photo-sharing app Instagram may continue to claim to be a safe platform for teenagers, but a new report suggests otherwise.
According to a research by the watchdog group Tech Transparency Project (TTP), Instagram is pushing drug-related content to teen accounts.
The research suggested that minor users had access to a range of pharmaceuticals on the platform.
As per the (TTP) report, the platform allows teen users as young as 13 to find potentially deadly drugs for sale in just two clicks.
TTP created multiple Instagram accounts for minors between the ages of 13 and 17 and used them to test teen access to controlled substances on the platform.
Not only did Instagram allow the hypothetical teens to easily search for age-restricted and illegal drugs, but the platform's algorithms helped the underage accounts connect directly with drug dealers selling everything from opioids to party drugs, the report said.
The investigation found that when a hypothetical teen user logged into the Instagram app, it only took two clicks to reach an account selling drugs like Xanax. In contrast, it took more than double the number of clicks -- five -- for the teen to log out of Instagram.
The report also mentioned that Instagram bans some drug-related hashtags like #mdma (for the party drug ecstasy), but if the teen user searched for #mdma, Instagram auto-filled alternative hashtags for the same drug into the search bar.
When a teen account followed a drug dealer on Instagram, the platform started recommending other accounts selling drugs, highlighting how the company's algorithms try to keep young people engaged regardless of dangerous content.
Recently, the photo-sharing platform has received backlash after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal company research suggesting Instagram's negative effect on teenagers. Post that, the platform had launched a 'Take a Break' and other safety features for teenagers.