Drug Web Sites Provide Harmful Information - Study

Drug Web Sites Provide Harmful Information - Study
Posted by FoM on August 08, 2001 at 17:20:04 PT
By Gene Emery
Source: Reuters
Internet surfers are far more likely to come upon Web sites with wrong and potentially dangerous information about illicit drug use than they are to find more reliable, informed sites, a new study shows. A study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine found that popular Internet search engines tend to direct users to sites that appear to promote drug use and provide incorrect and even dangerous information.
Often overlooked by the popular search engines are those Web sites that provide reliable information on illegal drugs, including sites funded by the federal government, the study said.Some 24 percent of college students use the Internet to find information about illegal drugs, with some sites recording 160,000 hits a day, researchers said.Edward Boyer and two other doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston conducted the survey, studying seven "partisan" sites "that promulgate information about illicit drugs.""When we looked at fairly common illicit substances, we found that serious errors were pretty easy to find," Boyer told Reuters. "Not only do partisan Web sites condone drug use with its attendant health risks, but any adverse effect arising from illicit substances potentially would be mismanaged with potentially lethal consequences."Feds Overlooked?For example, one promotes "cures" for poisoning from psychedelic mushrooms such as ingesting carbon tetrachloride, which can destroy the liver.By contrast, sites with reliable information, especially those funded by the federal government, are often ignored or given a low priority by popular search engines that rank sites for information on Ecstasy and other illegal drugs."We were stunned to find the federal government sites were absent from some searches entirely," even though the government is spending millions of dollars developing them, Boyer said.One reason is that those creating government-sponsored sites seem to "lack the technical expertise" to make them appear prominently in a search, he said.For example, most Web sites use hidden keywords to help search engines flag them. Home pages for sites that promote drug use contain up to 60 such keywords.But the home page for freevibe -- -- with drug information from the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, had none.In order to find freevibe in a search, consumers had to know to ask specifically for "freevibe.""In all searches, antidrug sites from the federal government failed to appear as often as the partisan sites, which dominate the search results when people are looking for information on illicit substances such as Ecstasy, GHB, or 'psychedelic mushrooms,"' the researchers said.GHB or gammahydroxybutyrate, is similar to Rohypnol the so-called date rape drug, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information."These data suggest that the U.S. government, despite extensive and costly efforts, currently does not provide effective alternative sources of information about drugs on the Web, where partisan sites still get the attention of both search engines and users," they said.The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which sponsors the freevibe site, criticized the study and chastised the authors for failing to contact the agency before putting out the letter."As far as I know, the people who wrote that letter never contacted this office," said Jennifer Devallance, a spokeswoman for the agency.She said there were more than 3,000 links around the Web to either freevibe or The Anti-Drug -- -- which targets parents. Source: ReutersAuthor: Gene EmeryPublished: August 8, 2001 Copyright: 2001 ReutersNew England Journal of Medicine Articles - Ecstasy
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Comment #17 posted by Dan B on August 09, 2001 at 13:54:15 PT
Thanks Patrick and dddd
I appreciate your understanding. I, too, am glad they caught these people. This is actually what cops are supposed to be doing with their time: protecting the innocent. I think we are right to be on our guard about how the government intrudes on Internet privacy. We should be concerned, even when the subject matter they are tracking down is something with which we disagree. Regarding the issue of "partisan" sites: I looked up the word in the dictionary, and among the four definitions, this one stood out most to me:2. Mil. a member of a party of light or irregular troops engaged in harassing an enemy, esp. a native engaged in fighting or sabotage against an occupying army.Actually, when you look at it this way, "partisan" doesn't sound too bad. Basically, it's another word for "guerrillas" or "freedom fighters." Unfortunately, that is not how the general public understands the word. Dan B
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Comment #16 posted by Mitchum Rathbone on August 09, 2001 at 11:06:42 PT
toobusy chasing the carrott
I feel the biggest problem is "parents" are too busy chasing the carrott.....or following the red ball.....that the "important stuff" is just scenery to them....they cant pull themselves out of their quagmire.....long enough to see the long term affects of their apathy (cause the govt will save them)....we cannot "make them"....wake up....until they realize they actually have no rights ...(probably through being wrongfully imprisoned)....and by then ....its too late.....the government will eventually rid this "web" of all the evil "free thinkers"....wether they have to imprison them...(for your protection).....or just take away "their" voice......(then the govt....will be the only voice)....again..."if everyone is thinking alike...then someone isnt thinking"...George s. Patton               Mitchum Rathbone
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Comment #15 posted by Sudaca on August 09, 2001 at 08:43:24 PT
noticed something?
Which are the websites that provide "Harmful Information" about drugs that this article rants about? Or are they trying to hint that unless its the fed's its all bad? It so happens that the official sites are so chock full of bullshit that no one in their right mind looks there. Even if they manage to get them on the top of the page of the searchbots that won't change. For crying out loud! A teenager wants to know more information on Cannabis, ecstasy or whatever ; unless its for a school report asking to spew back the progpaganda line , or unless he/she's got less than 2 fingers of forehead, there's no way they'll go to NIDA or to the DARE site. So , blanket accusations of misinformation; man I've checkeed a ton of places out on the web and I enver ran accross carbon tetrawhatever as a solution for a bad trip on mushrooms.This is just a crap alarmist article which is a lead up to the need of "managing" the information . Trying to force the blinkers on I'd say.
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Comment #14 posted by Patrick on August 09, 2001 at 08:40:53 PT
It's OK Dan B.
One of the things that attracted to me this site beside the obvious, is that the postings come from real people. You can feel other folks stress, anger, happiness, and sometimes even regret through their writings. The intelligent folks who post here, I have noticed, like yourself, correct themselves when they say something before they have the full story. Apology excepted! You are to be commended for setting an example that any anti or quasi-anti can plainly see. We, in favor of legalization merely do our utmost best to speak the truth. To bad our Government cannot adopt this policy rather than the propoganda they continue to dish out. I for one, am glad they busted these child pornographers. They paid for their smut, and now they will pay the piper. Their crime, unlike smoking pot, victimizes the completely innocent.
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Comment #13 posted by Kevin Hebert on August 09, 2001 at 08:19:49 PT:
Freedom and the Internet
We are very lucky to live in the information age. In all of human existence, it was never possible for all the people of the world to communicate with each other, until very recently (now we take it for granted).The question is, can it be stopped? I would say, no. Even if the government were to take over and regulate the Internet, it would be possible for us to us the existing technology to create an unregulated network. If they take over that one, we could continue the process.The cat is out of the bag. The technology behind it is extremely advanced, but it is also merely human technology, meaning that we mere humans can replicate it. The internet IS free speech. We have every right to use it to say whatever we like. We will not be silenced, unless we silence ourselves.
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Comment #12 posted by dddd on August 09, 2001 at 00:38:24 PT
..there was nothing..
about your "explosion",that was unwarranted.,,,and yourscenario was by no means far-fetched....I just like noticing how they parade the headlines,,as ifthis internet bust was a great victory for freedom,,,andthen go on to more or less admit,that they have the keys tothe internet,,and they will use it as a tool to bust,andterrorize more protect them from,,"HARMFUL INFORMATION"the new office of the ONHIP..the Office of National Harmful Information Policy...dddd
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Comment #11 posted by Dan B on August 09, 2001 at 00:06:12 PT
Okay . . . I jumped the gun
I just read an article about the arrests dddd wrote about, and now that I have more information, I am less pessimistic about the whole thing. It appears that the people arrested were paying customers to the website in question, and they had used their credit cards to pay for access to the child pornography. It was this list of credit cards that led to the arrests of these people, and I have no problem with that whatsoever.My initial concern was over my assumption (my fault, I apologize) that these people were simply hunted down via some covert operation. This simply was not the case. Nonetheless, I would be opposed to such strategies of hunting people down. In this case, it would be very easy to prove intent: the people sent in their credit card numbers in order to obtain access to these pictures. There is no way that these people simply stumbled onto these pictures; they knew what they were getting, and they paid to get it. Good riddance.Sorry for the unwarranted explosion. Serves me right for presuming guilt, even if it was the feds I was presuming to be guilty.Dan B
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Comment #10 posted by Dan B on August 08, 2001 at 23:37:58 PT:
Internet Crime: Where does it begin? End?
dddd . . . I appreciate your observations about Ashcroft's announcement, and I must admit that I think many people--especially those with kids who surf the Internet--should now have reason to be alarmed that the feds are going after anyone who has received the images posted by those child pornographers.Consider this scenario: Little Johnny (or Janey) is searching the Internet to find some information for an essay he (or she--at this point, I'll dispense with the politically correct language in favor of less cluttered language) is writing about that wonderful bird of the Galapagos Islands, the blue-footed boobie. An Internet search leads to a number of sites, some of which are actually related to the topic of his essay, but many of which have quite a few unrelated pictures. Mommy and Daddy have not set up a "nanny" program to watch over Johnny's Internet use while they are away, and soon Johnny finds himself amid many pictures unsuitable for viewing by children. Worse, Johnny happens to have stumbled upon some bad pictures of kids his age, and he is afraid to tell his parents about this because he isn't supposed to be on the Internet when Mommy and Daddy aren't home.Of course, the website has a counter, and that means that it likely also has a built-in cookie. That cookie registers every time the computer user logs onto the Internet andreports this information back to the counter. A few days from now, Mommy and Daddy may well receive a knock on the door, and their computer will be searched for incriminating "evidence" of child pornography. The cookie will serve as such evidence, along with any pictures Johnny or Janey may have left on the computer's hard drive, and Mommy and/or Daddy could very well be imprisoned for downloading child pornography. Further, they can expect especially harsh penalties because there is a child in the house. Johnny will become a ward of the state--just what the state wants.Think this scenario is absurd? Try to do Internet research on issues like rape, incest or child abuse; you will find a lot more than you bargained for. A couple of years ago, my wife and I set up a site aimed at helping survivors of rape and incest, and to create the site we had to do some Internet research. I was appalled at some of the crap a simple Internet search on AltaVista turned up. What if I had clicked on the wrong site--the site above or below the one I wanted to check out for its good information, or what if the website I clicked on had a misleading title (it happens more than you'd care to believe; there is no reason to believe that all of the sites with child porn would be clearly labeled "get your child pornography here")? Heck, they'll probably even get some adults who stumbled onto the child porn while looking for the legal adult variety.With an unregulated Internet (for the record, I am opposed to Internet "regulation," which would mean the end of our last hope for a free press), it is difficult to know whether a person deliberately visited a site or not. I am absolutely opposed to child pornography, and I am also absolutely opposed to Internet censorship, barring actual criminal activity (like child porn). I can see how they can go after a person who posted such material on the Internet, but how can they legally go after those who, wittingly or not, downloaded this material? Would not the burden be on the authorities to prove that the person who downloaded it did so knowing that the people depicted were children? How could they prove such knowledge before the person downloading it even saw what it was he or she was downloading? That is, how could they prove intent?These are legitimate questions for this forum, especially given the recent attacks on the 1st amendment right to discuss drug issues on the Internet (remember the Meth. Antiprolif. Act?). They can prove that so-and-so posted such information on an Internet site, but how could they prove that someone downloaded such information with the intent of using it for illegal ends, or even with full knowledge that they would receive that kind of information if they visited the site? It seems like a federal fishing expedition for a truckload of collars. What an amazing opportunity for the feds to railroad thousands of innocent people into jail along with the guilty. It will get much worse if the feds push through legislation barring discussion of drug manufacture, distribution, and use. That is why we need to fight injustice now, before they decide to tack more and more issues onto their legal right to hunt down criminals on the Internet. By all means, they should go after the child pornographers, but I believe that all of us have a vested interest in making sure that they leave alone those who may have visited those sites by mistake, even if it means that some of the guilty are also left alone. If they are allowed to prosecute those who visited those sites, then they may also one day be allowed to prosecute those of us who seek out via the Internet truthful information about the drug war. Dan B
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Comment #9 posted by dddd on August 08, 2001 at 20:34:22 PT
It wont be long
...I saw a news bite earlier,,with Ashcroft smiling andwaving from behind some podium.It seems they havebusted one of the biggest child porn rings on the internet,and they are now going to go after the people who recievedit....I'm not joking,,,this was on national news....what does this mean?,,,,well for one thing,it confirmsmy suspicion that there is almost no such thing as ananonymity if you are on line....They have already goneway out of bounds behind the scenes.If they want to trackany online activity,,they can,and will,,,no problem....My theory is also confirmed,when you consider how fastthey seem to be able to track down most hackers.The highlevel intelligensia has got all the keys to the internet....Bynow,,'Echelon"is probably nuthin'! comparing a Ponggame,to a Pentium III,or whatever.......One can only imagine the free reign,and intrusive libertiesthat are taken behind the scenes,under the banner of "publicsafety",,and anti kiddyporn/hacker excuses.They definatly have a large,jackbooted foot in the door,andit wont be long until the internet is run,and regulated by thepowers that be....It may take five or more years,,but keepyour eyes open,,,you will see more and more "threat stories"concerning the internet,,,as the big-dogs prime and conditionthe sheeple to accept some sort of federal oversight of the web.....They will create some type of new FCC regulatory agency,,,,,I'll betchya they already have!dddd
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Comment #8 posted by lookinside on August 08, 2001 at 19:56:29 PT:
involved in writing this article should be mortallyembarassed with themselves...the government is NOT areliable source of information...
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Comment #7 posted by The GCW on August 08, 2001 at 19:20:17 PT
A natural.
When the Government acts as irresponsably as it has, there is less and less people that are going to give them any attention. Including anyone setting up search engine priorities. They have ruled themselves out. Dissed themselves and many are hip to their bad habit, so they are not taken seriously. 
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on August 08, 2001 at 19:10:59 PT:
I find it oddly appealling; the French Resistance were often referred to by that sobriquet."By contrast, sites with reliable information, especially those funded by the federal government, are often ignored or given a low priority by popular search engines that rank sites for information on Ecstasy and other illegal drugs."We were stunned to find the federal government sites were absent from some searches entirely," even though the government is spending millions of dollars developing them, Boyer said.Hmmmm. So people are coming to sites like this...while the government sites are begging for visitors.Can it be because the government lied to the very audience it seeks to court...and continues to lie to it? And that prospective audience knows that it lies? And should we be surprised if many of the brilliantly gifted people (cannabists seem to form the lagest part of this coterie) who have designed these browsers, are not favorably inclined towards controlling, thieving and murdering liars, and thus do not design their programs to appease them?I'm afraid I must join our Good Doctor Russo in being doubled over by paroxysms of mirth...but for another reason.The Observer and I were having a conversation via DrugSenseChat when something similar came up. I had mentioned that those who don't seem to understand the medium of the Internet have one of two reactions to it;Ignore it in hopes that it might go away.Or try to destroy what they so greatly fear. What I refer to as 'cave man ethics'.Dr. Boyer and his ilk remind me of a caged animal that is suddenly exposed to the prospect of being free. It's so used to cages that it can't fathom the concept of no walls. They not only still think inside of a box, but live in one. They really can't understand this medium. Which is why when Dr. Boyer naively prattles on and professes wide-eyed wonder at the paucity of traffic entering 'anti-drug' governmental Web sites, I am poignantly reminded of the innocence of childhood compared with the experience of age. Only in this case, age has nothing to do with it, only truly useful knowledge.Which no Netizen in their right mind expects to receive from a government Web site. 
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Comment #5 posted by Robbie on August 08, 2001 at 18:57:21 PT
web sites
I'd like to see the specific sites that give "false" or "incorrect" information. The fact is, even though news organizations will jump all over this story, I know there are many more sites with accurate information than inaccurate.The drug-site ratio of non-govt/govt is most likely 10 to 1. Even if 4 of those non-government sites put out some inaccurate information, it's still a 6 to 1 ratio of factually accurate sites to government sites (those sites we KNOW to be full of misinformation and half-truths.)Again, when can we expect journalists and mainstream news organizations to make their own stories, as opposed to re-gurgitating what they're fed by the propaganda machine?
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Comment #4 posted by mr.greengenes on August 08, 2001 at 18:22:41 PT
checked out
FREEVIBE. They are so much more informative than EROWID.NOT!!!!
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on August 08, 2001 at 18:02:32 PT
I Get Banners
Every time I look for news about marijuana I get a banner from them. I want a banner from us. I think they bought them up or something.Their banner is always there.Check it out!
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Comment #2 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 08, 2001 at 17:58:59 PT:
Hapless Feds
"Often overlooked by the popular search engines are those Web sites that provide reliable information on illegal drugs, including sites funded by the federal government, the study said."Reliable information? Please excuse me while I convulse with derisive laughter. Not only are the Federal WWW sites filled with inaccurate propaganda, but they do not know how to hire the right geeks to sell their version. Should we all pine and sigh?What is more helpful to a teen seeking information about cannabis?: A skewed version from NIDA, or spending time at, where a variety of views are presented, discussed and dissected by interested people who know the subject well, indeed? You tell me. 
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Comment #1 posted by Dave in Florida on August 08, 2001 at 17:36:12 PT
No Problem- Just add Money
"We were stunned to find the federal government sites were absent from some searches entirely," even thoughthe government is spending millions of dollars developing them, Boyer said.No problem, The ONDCP will just start payingthe search engines to list them up front!The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which sponsors the freevibe site, criticized the study and chastised the authors for failing to contact the agency before putting out the letter.ahh, caught before they can react...and start paying more hush money..
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