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Synthetic opioids are being advertised on SoundCloud, investigation finds

Almost 3,000 advertisements for nitazenes were discovered on the streaming platform

  • 28 April 2024
Synthetic opioids are being advertised on SoundCloud, investigation finds

A new investigation by the BBC has found almost 3,000 advertisements for strong synthetic opioids on the music streaming platform SoundCloud.

Some of the advertisements, which have since been removed from the site, date back as far as a year. SoundCloud has responded to the discovery, saying it was a victim of “bad actors”.

The posts advertised nitazenes, which are more deadly than heroin and have been linked to nearly three UK deaths a week on average, according to the BBC.

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Advertisements were posted to the site by anonymous users as short audio clips lasting just a few seconds, with artwork showing a list of contact details and the drug name in the track's title.

SoundCloud has said it will do everything it can to “tackle this worldwide epidemic”, and claims to use both human and automated moderation to remove any such content.

The BBC reported that dozens of suppliers are advertising openly on social media platforms, which also included more than 700 posts on Twitter, many of which still remain on the site despite efforts to remove them.

The evidence presented by the BBC also suggested that the advertised nitazenes were being posted from China, where they’re largely manufactured. More than a dozen types of nitazenes were discovered in the advertisements.

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It also warned that strong synthetic opioids can be discovered on mainstream social media platforms when searching for specific nitazenes, but many return warnings.

Professor Vicki Nash, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, told the BBC: "Finding adverts on this scale, hundreds, thousands of adverts, is horrifying with potentially a very significant risk to human life."

She also added that the investigation looks into how suppliers are “blatantly misusing” SoundCloud by hiding adverts in tracks in a way that can be discovered online.

Read the full investigation here.

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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