AI can help find illegal opioid sellers online. And wildlife traffickers. And counterfeits.


Tablets suspected by the Drug Enforcement Administration to be fentanyl. Don Emmert/Getty Images

The government is investing in an AI-based tool that could help catch illegal opioid sales on the internet. But the same approach could find lots of other illicit transactions.

An estimated 130 people die from opioid-related drug overdoses each day in the United States, and 2 million people had an opioid use disorder in 2018. This public health crisis has left officials scrambling for ways to cut down on illegal sales of these controlled substances, including online sales.

Now the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, is investing in an artificial intelligence-based tool to track how “digital drug dealers” and illegal internet pharmacies market and sell opioids (though online transactions are likely not a large share of overall illegal sales).

New AI-based approaches to clamping down on illegal opioid sales demonstrate how publicly available social media and internet data — even the stuff you post — can be used to find illegal transactions initiated online. It could also be used to track just about anything else, too: The researcher commissioned by NIDA to build this tool, UC San Diego professor Timothy Mackey, told Recode the same approach could be used to find online transactions associated with illegal wildlife traffickers, vaping products, counterfeit luxury products, and gun sales.

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Counterfeit drugs becoming big business around the world

counterfeit drugs

American authorities are afraid more counterfeits will find their way into this country, putting patients’ lives at risk.

New fears are raised that the multibillion-dollar drug-counterfeiting trade is increasingly making inroads in the U.S. after the discovery that a fake version of the widely used cancer medicine Avastin is circulating in the United State.s

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Counterfeit driver’s licenses look so real they’re dangerous

 fake ids

To the naked eye — even the practiced eye of most bartenders and police officers — the counterfeits look perfect.

A phony South Carolina driver’s license was found in the hip pocket of 20-year-old Craig Eney after the fleeing motorcycle he was driving hit a curb, scraping past a utility pole hurling him to his death.


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Fake Drugs Are a Growing Problem That’s Endangering Consumers’ Health


Counterfeit drugs are a “money machine”.

Counterfeit drugs made in Asia and other emerging markets are a growing problem that’s endangering consumers’ health and chipping away at drug companies’ profits. Last year, nearly 1,700 incidents of counterfeit drugs were reported worldwide, triple the number in 2004, says the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), a group funded by drugmakers. Estimates for the size of the counterfeit drug market range from $75 billion to $200 billion a year. The market is likely much bigger because many cases are hard to detect.


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Gray Market for Electronic Counterfeit Gadgets is Very Lucrative in China


Fake iPhones

Apple’s iPhone 4 is not officially for sale yet in China and may not be for several months. Neither is the popular iPad touch-screen tablet.   But never mind. Both devices are readily available at a plethora of Chinese electronics malls in Beijing, Shanghai and all the major cities, in what constitutes China’s lucrative telecommunications “gray market” that rivals — and in some cases, surpasses — the real thing.


Record Number of Counterfeit One Pound Coins Could Force Britain to Reissue Entire Denomination


Real pound coin

Their warning came as new figures indicated there were £41 million fake £1 coins in Britain – one in every 36 in circulation. This is a record level and suggests that the proportion of counterfeit coins had tripled in the last decade.


Counterfeit Proof Watch: No Way To Fake It


Counterfeit Proof Watch

 If you forked over $50,000 for a fancy Swiss watch, it would be pretty annoying to see your neighbor Vinny flashing around a knock off version that he bought at the flea market for $50. Here in New York City you’ll find plenty of places in Midtown or down around Canal Street, where you can get a “Rotex” that looks kind of like the real thing as long as you don’t get too close. For those willing to spend a little more for their phony bling, you can even get replicas that require an expert’s eye to reveal their deception. (Pics)


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