This book evaluates the impact of situational crime prevention measures implemented by social media platforms to identifying, blocking, and removing content linked to illegal traded medicines. It discusses the extent of social media usage in trafficking of medicines; the ease of access; visibility of the content; language of posts; products most traded; and types of posts. Research results support the hypothesis of the limited impact of these measures, due not to a lack of effectiveness but to asymmetrical implementation.
This volume will be of interest to researchers, law enforcement, policy makers, social media groups, public health practitioners.
Gabriele Baratto is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Faculty of Law of the University of Trento.
From Introduction (pag.3)
Despite this, it is clear that social media websites today represent an emerging threat in relation to the illegal online trade of medicines. For instance, in 2012, in an international operation coordinated by Interpol, a massive number of spam emails and social networking messages linked to illegal online pharmacies were removed, and from 2014 to 2015 Interpol shut-down more than 23,000 illegal advertisements of medicines from the Internet and social media platforms (Frangež & Slak, 2016). The MHRA, medicines regulatory authority of the United Kingdom, targeted illegal content on social media websites – including over 18,000 YouTube videos – advertising the illegal online trade of medicinal products, including analgesics, medicines for erectile dysfunction, and antianxiety and antidepressant pharmaceuticals (Richards & Hudson, 2016).
In this context, as frequently outlined by researchers (for instance, Trottier, 2015, 2012; Yar, 2018), the capabilities and resources of law enforcement agencies and other institutions are usually not enough to cope with the scale and complexity of the online environment, determining a significant deficit in contrasting offenders exploiting the opportunities provided by new technologies with the use of the traditional public strategies. For an effective counter action against the illegal online trade of medicines in social media websites other public and private actors should be involved, and situational crime prevention (SCP) interventions seem to be a promising path to follow. SCP transfers the responsibility for crime control and prevention from police to other stakeholders, which is considered more effective in reducing crime in the long run (Shariati & Guerette, 2017). Since crime, according to the SCP’s theoretical foundations, mainly originates from opportunities that arise from the environment, the commission of a specific crime can be prevented by controlling – and, in some cases, manipulating – a situational environment to eliminate the opportunities.
Several SCP measures have been elaborated and implemented in the last few years in order to fight against the illegal online trade of medicines. These interventions have only rarely been assessed using a sound evaluation methodology by criminologists, and their impact on the criminal market is still questionable. Furthermore, all the traditional SCP measures present some critical aspects, and none of them are tailored to social media. However, recently new SCP systems aimed at identifying, blocking and removing contents linked to the illegal online trade of medicines has been implemented by most of the social media platforms. This seems to be a very promising path towards an effective fight against the criminal market under analysis since aimed at avoiding all possible connections between buyers and sellers. However, their ability in reaching their goal is still questionable, especially because very little information on this topic is usually disclosed by the providers (Snyder, 2017). For this reason, further criminological research is needed in order to understand whether the above-mentioned counterstrategies implemented are not only theoretically promising, but also practically functioning.
The objective of this book is to fill this gap. In more detail, the question of the present research is the following: to what extent have SCP measures introduced by social media websites impacted on the illegal online trade of medicines in such platforms?
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