Parents Consider Taking Legal Action Against Snapchat Over Rise In Teen Fentanyl Deaths From Drugs Bought Online

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Snapchat is developing new ways to secure their app after the influx of Fentanyl and other illegal drugs were being sold through their site.

The new developments will be able to warn users of the dangers of buying and selling dangerous pills in an effort to keep it’s community users safe.

"We have heard devastating stories from families impacted by this crisis, including cases where fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were purchased from drug dealers on Snapchat," the company said in a blog post.

Snapchat is tackling the selling of Fentanyl on their platform.

The company said that it is improving its automated detection systems that will notify them of drug sales happening over the app. From their blog post, Snapchat also said that its artificial intelligence proactively detects "nearly two-thirds" of drug-related content on the platform.

Snapchat has also hired more people to respond to law enforcement requests during criminal investigations, as well as launching an in-app education portal called Heads Up focused on the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit pills.

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Social media has quickly become a new marketplace for drug dealers to seek out buyers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, and limited access to in-person events, many drug dealers have turned to social media apps as a way to make money and sell their product.

Deaths from drug overdoses have increased significantly since 2019. More than 93,000 people died from an overdose in 2020, while in 2019 the number was around 72,000.

Snapchat itself has been linked to the sale of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills that have caused the deaths of teens and young adults in at least 15 states.

While dealers have found the effectiveness of selling their products on social media to be rather easy, they also don’t believe there is a risk to be caught.

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The counterfeit pills sold are made to look like legitimate prescription pills. Though, 2 in 5 counterfeit pills seized and tested in the United States contain enough Fentanyl to kill.

Nearly 48% of users on Snapchat are between the ages of 15-25. Snapchat also ranks as the most important social network for teenagers in the United States.

It seems that Snapchat almost has a duty to protect its young users from encountering the selling of illegal drugs on their app.

Many parents of children who have been killed by deadly counterfeit pills are calling for Snapchat to do more to remove drug dealers from the platform.

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Can parents sue Snapchat over drug-related deaths? 

There is a law that prohibits the company from being held liable. Section 230 is the federal legislation that shields online publishers from responsibility for the content on their platforms, meaning parents can’t sue Snapchat.

One parent, Dr. Laura Berman, has been vocal about the death of her 16-year-old son in February 2021 from Fentanyl poisoning that he took after purchasing what he thought was Oxycontin through Snapchat.

While Snapchat has implemented new enforcement and awareness on their app, it is still easy for drug dealers who have been kicked off the platform to create a new account by simply using a different phone number.

There needs to be more done on Snapchat’s end to stop the illegal sales of drugs laced with Fentanyl, especially when most of the victims are unaware of what they are buying and extremely young. 

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.