Snapchat announced that they will be making a greater effort to combat drug dealing on the platform. The announcement is partially due to the increased amount of drug-related deaths among US high school and college-aged students.
Snapchat announced that they have adopted improved automated drug detection systems as well as enhancing partnerships with law enforcement. The app will also now have a portal that can be used for educating users on the dangers of drugs.
“Our position on this has always been clear: we have absolutely zero tolerance for drug dealing on Snapchat. We have a unique opportunity to use our voice, technology and resources to help address this scourge, which threatens the lives of our community members.”
The increased security efforts come after the CDC warned of a major spike of drug overdoses in 2021, mainly driven by fentanyl; a cheap synthetic opioid that’s 100 times more potent than heroin, and is often mixed with counterfeit pills that young people buy through social media.
In 2020 fentanyl fatalities rose by 32% when compared to 2019; more than 93,000 deaths. Individuals aged 24 or younger have seen a 50% increase in drug deaths as well.
“Every drug you try now is a game of Russian roulette,” Shabbir Safdar, director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a non-profit fighting pharmaceutical counterfeits, said.
A recent study from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found that pills labeled as Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax or Adderall are readily available on platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Craigslist.
Within the past year Snapchat claims it has increased its proactive detection of drug sales by 390%; increasing security efforts by 50% within the last quarter alone. When Snapchat’s systems detect drug dealing activity on the app the account is automatically banned and the creator is blocked from creating new accounts on the platform.
The company has also increased their partnerships with law enforcement and improved on response times to law enforcement inquiries by 85% within the past year.
Snapchat said it is “working with experts to continually update the list of slang and drug-related terms blocked from search results on Snapchat. Other platforms should also take measures to put a stop to the massive rise in online drug dealing. This is not just a Snapchat problem,” said Christine Elgersma, a senior editor at children’s safety non-profit Common Sense Media.
At a 2021 congressional hearing, Instagram executive Adam Mosseri had to answer questions regarding drug dealing on social media.
“Why are children’s accounts even allowed to search for drug content to begin with, much less allowed to do so in a way that leads them to a drug dealer in two clicks?” asked the Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah.
“Accounts selling drugs or any other regulated goods are not allowed on the platform. The app uses technology to proactively take down a huge number of drug-related posts, Mosseri responded.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.