UAB teaming up with Facebook to tackle online drug sales

UAB teaming up with Facebook to tackle online drug sales
UAB teams up with Facebook (Source: WBRC Fox6 News)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The relationship between Facebook and UAB has expanded once again.

Now they’re working with the social media giant to monitor the latest tactics in illicit drug sales.

“We really focus on three different areas with Facebook. We have one team looking at terror, one team looking at cyber crime, and another team looking at what they call harmful content,” said Gary Warner, Director of the UAB Computer Forensics Research Lab. “And so one of the examples of harmful content is people who are selling opioids or fentanyl or are encouraging people to explore opioids or fentanyl on the platform.”

Most of the time, users are not just going to type in the drug’s actual name in the search bar. That’s where the UAB lab comes in, working closely with the school’s forensic science program to identify things like chemicals and street names.

“Maybe they’re looking for a chemical name. But what we’re doing is we’re taking those names and searching for places where people are talking about abusing and selling opioids and looking for the other terms that they’re using in addition to those,”said Warner.

So far they’ve identified 350 search terms for various synonyms for fentanyl. That allows Facebook to plug that info into their system.

When people search for the terms, they’ll possibly instead get an offer for help and treatment.

“The idea is what are the things that my team at UAB looks for that currently their search engines, their internal policing systems are not looking for,” said Warner.

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