Snapchat Reportedly Scrutinized By Authorities Over Role In Spreading Fentanyl

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Topline

Snapchat and its parent company Snap have been scrutinized by the FBI and Justice Department over the sale of fentanyl-laced pills through the app, according to Bloomberg, as federal agencies and legislators probe whether social media apps have fueled a surge in fentanyl-related overdoses.

Key Facts

The FBI and Justice Department will investigate Snapchat as investigators have already interviewed parents of children who died from fentanyl overdoses and are working to link their social media accounts to their suppliers, sources told Bloomberg.

The Justice Department declined to comment to Forbes, while the FBI would neither confirm nor deny an investigation.

A possible investigation by the Justice Department of Snap follows a request by the National Crime Prevention Council last month which called Snapchat “the platform of choice for fentanyl drug dealers” because the app deletes messages between users over time.

Between 2019 and 2021, fentanyl-related deaths of 10- to 19-year-olds increased by 182%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with counterfeit pills resulting in nearly 25% of those deaths.

Snap told Forbes that the company is “committed to doing our part to fight the national fentanyl poisoning crisis.”

Big Number

270,810. That’s how many drug-related pieces of content violated Snapchat’s policies and were removed by the company in 2022, according to a release. This represents just 4.8% of the total reports (775,145) of drug-related content.

Key Background

An effort to shut down illegal drug trade on Snapchat has been in the works for several years, according to Snap. The company has since blocked search results for drug-related terms and will redirect its users to resources from experts about the dangers of fentanyl. More than 564,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2020, according to the CDC, with many overdose deaths now linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Snap said it works alongside agents for the Drug Enforcement Agency to help identify any drug-related content posted on its social media platform. Despite the company’s efforts, the families of children who died from fentanyl-related overdoses say the app has “encouraged, enabled and facilitated” the sale of counterfeit pills, according to the Sacramento Bee.

What To Watch For

A roundtable hosted Wednesday by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will discuss the involvement of technology companies in the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

Further Reading

FBI Examines Snapchat’s Role In Fentanyl Poisoning Deaths (Bloomberg)

Walgreens Strikes $83 Million Settlement With West Virginia Over Opioid Crisis (Forbes)

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