Snapchat rolls out safety features to cut down on illegal drugs sales after string of fentanyl deaths

Business Insider US
Snapchat released new educational features to curb the sale of illegal drugs on the app.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Snapchat has announced that it released new safety features to curb the sale of illegal drugs on the app.
  • Insider previously found at least two dozen fentanyl-related deaths in which the dealer used Snapchat to sell the drug.
  • A safety portal will now redirect users who search for certain terms to educational materials about illegal drugs.
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Snapchat is adding new features to cut down on the sale of fentanyl and other illegal drugs on the social media platform, the company announced on Thursday.

"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 app's parent company, Snap, said in a blog post.

More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That's an increase of nearly 30% from 2019, when there were around 72,000 drug overdose deaths.

As Jeff Elder previously reported for Insider, social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram have emerged as quick and easy ways to buy illegal drugs for teenagers and young adults in particular. Insider found at least two dozen fentanyl-related deaths from 2020-2021 in which the dealer used Snapchat to sell the drug.

Drug dealers often use social media platforms to sell drugs, and they may list Snapchat accounts on their other social media profiles to arrange drug deals through the app's disappearing messages. Snapchat also has a map feature that makes it easier for drug buyers and sellers to find each other, social-media and law enforcement experts previously told Insider.

Snapchat said it is improving its automated detection system to notify the company of drug sales occurring over the app. The company said in the blog post that its artificial intelligence proactively detects "nearly two-thirds" of drug-related content on the platform.

The company said it also hired more people to respond to law enforcement requests during criminal investigations, and launched an education feature called Heads Up, which redirects people who search for certain drug terms to educational material about the health effects of illegal drugs.

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