Federal agencies are said to be examining ‘s role in the growing fentanyl epidemic as part of a larger probe into the sale of deadly counterfeit drugs.
Agents with the and attorneys at the DOJ are now looking into fentanyl poisoning cases, in which sales of the deadly drug were arranged on the messaging app, reports, citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation.
At the same time, the app is being sued by grieving parents blaming it for their children’s deaths after they arranged to meet with drug dealers on Snapchat.
A spokeswoman for Snapchat told DailyMail.com the company is not aware of any investigations — but said the company would cooperate with law enforcement efforts.
‘We are committed to doing our part to fight the national fentanyl poisoning crisis, which includes using cutting-edge technology to help us proactively find and shut down drug dealers’ accounts,’ spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said in a statement to DailyMail.com.
Federal investigators are said to be looking into Snapchat’s role in the fentanyl epidemic
‘We are committed to doing our part to fight the national fentanyl poisoning crisis, which includes using cutting-edge technology to help us proactively find and shut down drug dealers’ accounts,’ she said, explaining that the app blocks search results for drug-related terms and redirect users to resources detailing the dangers of fentanyl.
She added: ‘We continually expand our support for law enforcement investigations, helping them bring dealers to justice, and we work closely with experts to share patterns of dealers’ activities across platforms to more quickly identify and stop illegal behavior.
‘We will continue to do everything we can to tackle this epidemic, including by working with other tech companies, public health agencies, law enforcement, families and nonprofits.’.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic drug, which last year killed an American every seven minutes
According to Bloomberg, FBI agents have already interviewed the parents of children who died after taking fentanyl and are working to access their social media accounts to trace who supplied them with the deadly drugs.
Experts say dealers have flocked to the app due to its encryption technology and its feature which ensures messages disappear.
Subpoena records obtained by the outlet show teenagers using the app thought they were illegally buying prescription painkillers, but were instead handed pure fentanyl — which is 100 times more deadly than morphine.
Families of the victims have claimed that Snapchat is the platform of choice for arranging drug deals because of its encrypted technology and disappearing messages.
Former White House drug czar Jim Carroll also said the drug dealers use the app because it is popular among younger users.
‘From everything I have read, I do believe that Snapchat has been more widely used for facilitating drug sales than other platforms,’ Carroll, who serves on Snap Inc’s Safety Advisory Council and now works for Michael Best Consulting told Bloomberg.
‘I think that’s because of its popularity among the young.’
Snapchat executives say they are continuing to improve the technology to steer users away from drugs, and will continue to work with law enforcement to crack down on those who use its app to conduct drug deals
Former White House drug czar Jim Carroll said he thinks drug dealers are using the app because it is popular amongst teenagers. He is pictured here in 2019 showing off a block of cocaine officials seized from a ship at a Philadelphia port
In December, Snap Inc. — the parent company of Snapchat — reported it had 363million daily users.
That same month, Bloomberg reports, the National Crime Prevention Council wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging the Justice Department to investigate Snapchat and its business practices.
It claimed that the app allows drug dealers ‘to market and sell fake pills to unsuspecting teens and tweens.’
Garland never responded, according to Bloomberg, but federal investigators are now asking questions about the company’s business practices.
The FBI, though, would neither confirm nor deny an investigation to Bloomberg, and the Justice Department declined to comment.
Authorities have said teenagers are often taking fentanyl under false pretenses, thinking they are taking some other substance. A whopping 92.5 pounds of the illicit drug was seized in April by the Alameda County Task Force in California
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to discuss tech company’s involvement in the ongoing fentanyl crisis.
One of the speakers will be Laura Marquez-Garrett, an attorney with the Social Media Victims Law Center, who said the committee will specifically focus on Snapchat.
She is representing dozens of families across the United States who are suing the social media giant, claiming it aided and abetted in the sale of counterfeit pills to kids.
They argue that Snapchat was slow to respond to police subpoenas, and can take months to remove known drug dealers from its platform.
In one of these lawsuits, filed in the Superior slot gacor77 Court of California, families claim one drug dealer who used Snapchat was responsible for the deaths of two people in Orange County.
The suit alleges 14-year-old Alexander Neville and 20-year-old Daniel Elijah Figueroa both purchased what they thought were prescription painkillers from deals arranged on the app.
It claims that just two days before Neville died, he told his mother he had purchased Oxycodone from somebody on Snapchat, saying he was afraid because he already wanted more.
His mother, Amy, then booked him into a treatment facility, but found him the next morning lying dead on his bedroom floor.
‘I don’t understand how he could have taken so much oxy he died,’ she told Bloomberg. ‘That was the day we learned about fentanyl.’
In the aftermath, Bloomberg reports, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency subpoenaed Snapchat for Neville’s messages, which showed evidence he met with a dealer called Aj Smokxy.
Three months later, Figueroa was found slumped over a bed at his grandmother’s house, and local police once again subpoenaed the social media company for his messages.
They found he had arranged to purchase Percocet from a dealer who used the Snapchat account Arnoldo_8286, who allegedly used Aj Smokxy as a supplier.
The above CDC graph shows estimated (dotted line) and confirmed (black line) drug overdose deaths in the US since 2015. There has been a small downturn, which may just be fatalities returning to pre-pandemic levels
Snap Inc. insists it is working with law enforcement throughout the country to tamp down on illegal activity on its app, and boosted moderation efforts to detect illegal drug sales.
The company uses machine-learning technology to proactively detect drug activity on its platform, and is working with the DEA to identify illicit drug-related content on other platforms that direct users to its app in an effort to proactively identify drug dealers’ accounts and shut them down.
Snap Inc. is also working with Senators Roger Marshall, a Republican from Maryland, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, to support bipartisan legislation that would establish a standardized reporting regime for social media companies that would better enable the DEA to locate drug cartels.
Additionally, a spokeswoman for Snap Inc told DailyMail.com, the company began a pilot program with Meta — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram — to share patterns of drug-related content and activity on their platforms.
It is also continuing to improve response times, and in cases of imminent threats, a team typically responds within 30 minutes.
And, the spokeswoman told DailyMail.com, it added new protections to prevent users under the age of 18 from showing up in search results or as a friend suggestion to someone else unless they have multiple friends in common and has released an in-app parental tool called the Family Center to empower parents to see all of the friends their teens are communicate with and report any concerning accounts.
But Snapchat is not the only way teenagers are connecting with drug dealers online.
Research conducted by the Tech Transparency Project last year showed Instagram was pushing drug-related content to teen accounts.
It found that the social media platform continued to suggest hashtags related to buying illegal substances to children as young as 13, reports.
This map shows the change in overdose deaths over the 12 months to June 2022 compared to the 12 months to June 2021