Fighting back against drug traffickers targeting online youth

The Council of Europe, the EU’s human rights arm, has been spearheading a special international forum aimed at coordinating policy against drug traffickers who target youth online.

Mexico City hosted the event co-organised by the Pompidou Group, which is the CoE’s dedicated drug policy platform, and which attracted interested stakeholders from across the world.

Mexico has been a member of the 41-member state Pompidou Group since 2017, and hosted the forum at the Mexican Ministry for Security and Citizen Protection, aided by the co-organisation of the Mexican Foreign Ministry and the participation of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

One particular threat that was put under the spotlight was the increasing use of online gaming platforms by drug traffickers to recruit young people into illicit drug trading, and Thomas Kattau, the Pompidou Group’s Deputy Executive Secretary highlighted how Mexico was the first country to discover this recent trend.

‘Young adolescents can be groomed’

The CoE says that as the ‘dark net’, which could be described as the sinister side of the world wide web,  is losing popularity among drug cartels – because the authorities have become more effective in monitoring it – online video games and social networks are now being used to lure youth into illicit drug trading. This is because such gaming platforms are not well monitored.

Anyone, Kattau continued, can build a virtual relationship with any other player, enabling traffickers to encounter young players through emoticons, and while all young people are at risk, young adolescents, especially those from poorer backgrounds, can be groomed to make illegal drug deals.

Rosa Icela Rodríguez, Secretary of the Mexican Ministry for Security and Citizen Protection laid out the pool of possible targets – around 72 per cent of boys and girls aged 6 to 11 surf the web, 92 per cent between the ages of 12 and 17, and 95 per cent between 19-24 years old. “The Mexican government has made it a priority to establish prevention strategies for young people, which is why we are holding this forum,” she said.

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Author: Simon Weedy

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