FBI Investigating Snapchat over Its Role in Fentanyl Crisis

FBI Investigating Snapchat over Its Role in Fentanyl Crisis

Snap’s popular photo and text app, Snapchat, is reportedly under investigation by FBI and The Justice Department over its involvement in the distribution of fentanyl. Bloomberg reported that the investigators have been contacting the families of children who died after consuming an overdose of fentanyl-laced pills.

Also Read: Snap’s approach to the metaverse

As evidence from subpoenaed Snapchat posts shows, many teenagers who ordered prescribed painkillers like Percoset received pure fentanyl, and two milligrams is enough to take their lives.

“Big Tech has many problems,” said Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who works on cases seeking to hold tech platforms accountable for often offline harms. “But the lethal fentanyl sales is not a general Big Tech problem. It’s a Snap-specific problem. Snap’s product is designed specifically to attract both children and illicit adult activity.”

On Wednesday, Goldberg even emphasized Snapchat’s message disappearing and real-time mapping features, which allow users to track their friends.

Not Just Snapchat

Not just Snapchat is the problem, as lawmakers are specious about other platforms as well. “This is not just Snapchat,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla, pointing at the example of fentanyl-laced drug deals over Facebook Messenger, “It’s all these Social Medias.”

However, Meta declined to comment on CNBC’s inquiry, claiming that their service prohibits such trading, as per a spokesperson. Snap’s spokesperson also reiterated and said the company is committed to fight the fentanyl-crisis.

“We will continue to do everything we can to tackle this epidemic,” said the spokesperson, “including by working with other tech companies, public health agencies, law enforcement, families and nonprofits.”

The spokesperson even said that the company has shut down the dealer’s account and blocked search results for drugs.

‘Platform of Choice for Drug Dealers’

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) called on federal authorities to investigate Snapchat, stating it is “the platform of choice for fentanyl drug dealers” last month.

Snapchat’s encrypted technology and message disappearance feature is attracting suppliers, according to NCPC.

“Drug dealers are using American innovation to sell lethal products,” said NCPC Director Paul DelPonte in an open letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The death rate of teenagers by overdose between the ages of 10 and 19 has increased by more than 100%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, the death rate from illegally manufactured fentanyl has increased by 84% in the same time frame.

“In about the same amount of time it takes to read this letter, someone will die from fentanyl poisoning because they purchased a fake pill on a social media platform like Snapchat,” said DelPonte.

According to Statista, more than 89 million people in the United States use Snapchat, with 48% of them being between the ages of 15 and 25. Only in the first half of last year, Snap claimed to have removed more than 270,000 pieces of illicit drug-related content.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.