An analysis of drug dealing via social media


This study investigated the current state of social media drug dealing. The main objective was to understand how contemporary hybrid digital social media markets have evolved since previous research was undertaken in 2017-18. This was achieved by conducting netnography in online spaces, with a particular focus on Danish sites. The netnography data collection in Denmark has since been rolled out in Norway, Sweden and Germany. The most significant findings are as follows.

  • Our netnography found no access to drug dealing in Danish spaces through searching on the Meta platforms, Facebook and Instagram. Although there may be some limited groups on Facebook, the findings suggest that there has been a successful implementation of increased moderation protocols on both Instagram and Facebook.
  • On Snapchat, we identified easy and quick access to many active drug dealers in all major Danish cities. These dealers were identified by searching for common Danish drug slang in the search field and through suggestions from the app’s network-expanding features. We found similar ready access to drug dealers in Norway and Sweden. However, we did not identify drug dealer activity on the German Snapchat.
  • We also found a vast amount of Danish and Swedish drug dealing on forums in the social networking site Reddit. Here, dealers created and moderated forums dedicated to selling drugs. The forums functioned as open markets with high levels of competition and a degree of specialisation in offering all types of drugs. No Norwegian and German dealers was found on these sites.

In summary, we identified easily accessible drug dealing on surface-level social media amounting to a large potential drift among social media users. Snapchat and Reddit each host active digital drug markets well suited to taking advantage of the platforms’ features while avoiding effective moderation. It was not possible to reach either platform to inform them

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An analysis of drug dealing via social media

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This Background paper was commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) (contract CT.22.SAS.0017.1.). We are grateful for the valuable contribution of the author. The paper has been cited within various reports and is also being made available online for those who would like further information on the topic. However, the views, interpretations and conclusions set out in this publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the EMCDDA or its partners, any EU Member State or any agency or institution of the European Union.