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Twitter used by illegal online pharmacies to pedal drugs

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New York: Illegal online pharmacies are using Twitter to promote prescription drug abuse of controlled substances.

“This study is the first to establish an empirical link between Twitter content and illicit online pharmacies which promote the illegal sale of drugs that have significant abuse potential,” said study co-author Timothy Mackey from University of California-San Diego.

“Our results are concerning, as the study found over 45,000 tweets that promoted drug abuse even though we only looked at a two-week period of tweets,” Mackey added.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), young adults are the biggest abusers of prescription opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants, and anti-anxiety drugs.

The study conducted surveillance and content analysis of over two million tweets using the Twitter public streaming application programming interface and used assisted machine learning.

Tweets were analysed to determine if they discussed drug abuse issues, whether they favourably promoted drug abuse behaviour, and were also examined to see if they directly enabled the illegal access to controlled substances by online pharmacies.

Mackey said the study findings are extremely troubling.

“When we examined links included in a subset of the tweets that discussed drug abuse, we discovered that 76 percent of these tweets included a link to an online marketing affiliate advertising the sale of the controlled substance valium, a tranquillizer that is commonly abused,” he said.

Buying prescription drugs from illegal online pharmacies also endanger consumers financial information, putting them at risk of identity theft, according to experts.

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). (IANS) (image courtesy:wsjgadjets.ndtv.com)

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Microblogging Site Twitter Releases Tweets Linked to Russia, Iran

"We may also release incremental additions to existing datasets if we believe the additional information could materially impact research findings," Twitter said

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Twitter
Twitter releases data linked to Russian, Iranian info campaigns. Pixabay

With the goal of improving understanding of how foreign influence campings operate on Twitter, the microblogging site has now released massive datasets of accounts linked to potential influence campaigns originating in Russia and Iran.

These large datasets released this week comprise 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA), originating in Russia, and 770 other accounts, potentially originating in Iran.

Totalling over 360 gigabytes – including more than 10 million Tweets and more than 2 million images, GIFs, videos, and Periscope broadcasts ?the data store provides a picture of how state-sponsored agencies have used the Twitter platform, technology news website Ars Technica reported on Friday.

IRA allegedly ran information campaigns on several social media platforms to undermine the political process in the 2016 US presidential election.

TWitter
The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. vOA

With Twitter coming under scrutiny for its failure to stop the spread of misinformation during the election, the microblogging site, earlier this year, committed to the US Congress and the public to provide regular updates and information regarding its investigation into foreign interference in political conversations on Twitter.

Since that time, Twitter has shared examples of these types of content posted on Twitter by IRA and provided the public with a direct notice if they interacted with these accounts.

In August this year, Twitter also disclosed details of another attempted influence campaign it identified as potentially located within Iran.

The datasets released this week are aimed at enabling independent academic research and investigation into the nature of foreign influence campaigns, Twitter said.

Twitter
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“We are committed to understanding how bad-faith actors use our services. We will continue to proactively combat nefarious attempts to undermine the integrity of Twitter, while partnering with civil society, government, our industry peers, and researchers to improve our collective understanding of coordinated attempts to interfere in the public conversation,” Twitter said.

A preliminary look at the data by Ars Technica revealed that a common tactic used by the IRA was to create “local news” accounts for major US cities, seeding them with posts linking to local news outlets.

The accounts, such as “Atlanta Online,” “Baltimore Online,” “Baton Rouge Voice,” “Chicago Daily News,” and “Dallas Top News” would also include tweet-length news headlines with no link, the report said.

Also Read- Habitability Of Surrounding Planets Affected By Super Flares Of Red Dwarfs: NASA

Twitter said if it identifies additional attempted information operations on Twitter in the future, it will release similar datasets in a timely fashion after completing its investigations.

“We may also release incremental additions to existing datasets if we believe the additional information could materially impact research findings,” Twitter said. (IANS)