The Drugs, Guns, and Counterfeit Money Instagram Is Advertising Today

Jason Koebler, of 404 Media, two weeks ago:

For the last few months Instagram has served me a constant stream of ads for hard drugs, stolen credit cards, hacked accounts, guns, counterfeit cash, wholesale quantities of weed, and Cash App scams, as well as a Russian-language job posting seeking paid-in-cash massage therapists. Nearly all of these advertisements link directly to Telegram accounts where the drugs or illegal services can be directly purchased. With one tap, I was repeatedly taken from bouncing through Instagram stories of my friends on vacation to Telegram chat accounts where I could buy automatic weapons, meth, and stolen credit cards.

Besides being delivered directly to me by Instagram’s algorithm, thousands of these ads can be trivially found on Meta’s ad library by searching “,” which is the link shortener for Telegram, exposing a massive content moderation and ad screening failure by the company.

Koebler, today:

A Meta spokesperson originally told me that views for illegal goods make up less than .05 percent of what people see, though with billions of users, that still makes up potentially millions of views. Again, Meta is being paid to inject these into people’s feeds (but has no problem throttling journalism about its practices).

So, two weeks later, let’s see if one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world has discovered how to perform a basic search on its own platform.

In addition to guns, drugs, counterfeit currency, and duplicated credit cards, I also found counterfeit passports, betting rings on what are claimed to be fixed soccer matches, steroids, and various foreign exchange investment schemes which are likely fraudulent. It is plausible to me that a similar problem may exist on Google Ads, but its Ads Transparency Center does not permit full-text search. I often see ads for sketchy supplements, financial advice from deep-faked celebrities, and variations of the power saver scam.

All of these ads would be rejected by any ad provider worried about maintaining a reputation for quality. For Google and Meta, they are an everyday occurrence.