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AI Case Study

The Government of Canada plans to algorithmically scan the internet for data on public perceptions of cannabis use and related behaviours

Just a few weeks before the legalisation of recreational pot use in Canada, the government announced that it is planning to scour social media channels as well as the dark web for data related to cannabis use. It is currently seeking a company to realise the two projects, which are planned to be completed on April 30, 2019. The initiative is aimed at identifying Canadians’ attitudes towards legal pot, cannabis transactions, forums, vendor and buyer profiles and at estimating the size of the digital black market for cannabis to develop effective policy.


Public And Social Sector


Project Overview

"The Canadian government is seeking a company that will scour social media and the dark web for data on Canadians’ use of cannabis.

According to a tender posted by Public Safety Canada this week, the government wants a company to algorithmically scan Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and “other relevant microblogging platforms” for information on Canadians’ attitudes towards legal pot and their behaviours.

The initiative will look for self-reported usage patterns (how much, what kind, and where) and activities such as buying and selling weed. The government will also be scanning social media for “criminal activities associated with cannabis use”—driving under the influence, for example. The initiative will also capture metadata, such as self-reported location and demographics, but according to the tender the data “must exclude individual unique identifiers.”

The work will be conducted in compliance with the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. This statement says that research focusing on topics that include illegal activities depends on promises of strong confidentiality to participants.

According to a second tender, also posted this week, the feds are also looking to keep track of Canadians buying and selling weed on so-called dark web markets. Such markets are only accessible through the encrypted Tor browser and payment is most often made using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Monero.

The initiative aims to analyze cannabis transactions and search forums as well as vendor and buyer profiles. The goal is to estimate the size of the digital black market for cannabis in Canada and to form effective policy.

Both projects are slated to conclude on April 30, 2019."

Reported Results

Planned; results not yet available




Strategic Planning


"The request comes just weeks before recreational pot use becomes legalized on October 17, 2018."



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