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Instagram Is a Growing Marketplace for #GunsForSale, #PillsForSale

 by Ruth Schneider   Posted on November 2 2013

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Instagram is known for selfies, sunsets and photos of what you ate for dinner last night.

But it's also one of the world's largest online marketplaces -- a giant garage sale of goods . There are millions of photos posted every year of items you can buy -- everything from the latest Jordans to concert tickets with backstage access -- all under the hashtag #forsale.

Most of what is for sale on Instagram is perfectly legal. But some of it is more illicit -- guns, drugs, exotic animals. Need an AK-47? It's there. How about 30 tablets of Oxycodone or Xanax? That's available, too.

Instagram has its own terms of service, which bans illicit activity. Instagram did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The #gunsforsale tag on Instagram lists more than 1,700 photos with that tag. Some are licensed gun sellers; others are just people wanting to hawk their firearms.

None of that is monitored by the The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who say monitoring social media sites like Instagram for gun sales is not its job.

"Gun sales on the internet are not regulated," said Donna Sellers, a public affairs representative at the ATF. "I could sell you a gun."

She added that gun buyers are urged to purchase guns through licensed sellers.

Also, that doesn't mean you should feel free to start slinging guns online. Other people do pay attention. Like local police departments. The New York Police Department recently made the largest gun bust in the history of the state after seeing suspicious photos posted on Instagram.

The Drug Enforcement Agency, in contrast to the ATF, does work with local agencies to monitor social media.

"We would be looking at all the different social sites," said Barbara Carreno, a press officer with the DEA.

Users post drugs under a variety of hashtags. For example, there are 1.4 million posts about #marijuana, many of which are combined with the #forsale hashtag for the sale of marijuana. There are about 37,000 posts about #oxy and 43,000+ about #xanax, with hundreds showing tablets for sale.

?Any sale of a controlled substance without a legitimate prescription from a doctor, by whatever means, including via social media, is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and thus illegal and we enforce the CSA in all instances," Carreno said in an email. "No medium of sale is beyond our reach."

She said the DEA was a primary player in the recent shutdown of "Silk Road," an online drug trafficking site. The site appears to still be functioning through Instagram.

"(The) DEA is very proactive in keeping abreast of ever-evolving technological advancements, including the methodologies utilized by cyber criminals to evade law enforcement,? Carreno said.

That's a rather clear warning that illicit sellers need to clean up their act. Someone is watching.

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