Snapchat is cracking down on drug sales through its Vanishing Photos app, following reports of dealers using it to sling deadly fentanyl-laced pills.
According to Thursday’s blog post, the company is ramping up automated “proactive detection” systems that boot drug dealers from the app. It’s hiring more people to answer law enforcement questions and adding an educational feature called “Heads Up” that will show content about the dangers of the drug to users searching for words like “fentanyl” .
“We’ve heard devastating stories from families affected by this crisis, including those purchased on Snapchat from drug dealers with fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills,” the company said. “We are determined to remove illegal drug sales from our platform.”
The news comes after a series of teen overdose deaths allegedly caused by counterfeit prescription pills sold through Snapchat. Dealers reportedly use the platform to sell tablets that appear to be pain relievers or anti-anxiety drugs like OxyContin, Xanax and Vicodin – but are actually fakes that contain other drugs such as fentanyl that can lead to fatal overdoses Huh.
In September, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned that such counterfeit pills were being found in “unprecedented quantities.”
“So far this year, more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized, which is more than the last two years,” the DEA said.
DEA chief Anne Milgram has slammed social media companies for not taking enough steps to stop the trade of counterfeit pills on their platforms.
“Social media companies know that their platforms are being used for this. And they need — they need to understand that Americans are dying,” Milgram said on the Today show in September. “They think they’re buying a drug they’ve bought in an illegal market. And they’re not. They’re buying fentanyl or methamphetamine. And fentanyl pills can kill people.”
But Snapchat says it is addressing the issue. So far this year, the company said it has increased the number of accounts deleted for drug dealing by 112 percent. According to Snapchat, two-thirds of drug-related content is detected by its artificial intelligence systems, while the remainder is reported by users.
Good Luck America, a news show produced by Snapchat, is preparing to release an episode on the fentanyl crisis, the company said.
According to US Centers for Disease Control data, the number of drug overdose deaths rose to a record 93,000 in 2020 – a 29 percent increase from 2019. CDC data shows that fentanyl was involved in more than 60 percent of overdoses that year.