Snapchat is launching new tools to crack down on illicit drug sales on its platform

·3 min read

Snapchat is rolling out new tools and educational resources to prevent younger users from buying counterfeit pills and illicit drugs via the platform. The company said on Thursday that the goal of the new tools is to keep its users safe from “the devastating impacts of the fentanyl crisis.”

“We are determined to remove illegal drug sales from our platform, and we have been investing in proactive detection and collaboration with law enforcement to hold drug dealers accountable for the harm they are causing our community,” Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, said in a blog post. “While we still have work to do, across all types of law enforcement requests we receive, our response times have improved 85% year over year.”

The company says it has improved its proactive detection capabilities to remove drug dealers from its platform before they are able to engage with users and cause harm. Snapchat notes that its enforcement rates have increased by 112% during the first half of 2021, and that it has increased proactive detection rates by 260%. It also claims nearly two-thirds of drug-related content found on the platform is detected proactively by its artificial intelligence systems. It has also worked to improve its in-app reporting tools to make it easier for users to report drug-related content.

Further, when users search for drug-related keywords, they’ll now see a new in-app educational portal called “Heads Up.” The portal will show relevant educational content designed to prevent harm. Heads Up distributes content from reputable organizations such as Song for Charlie, Shatterproof and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Additional resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be added in the coming weeks.

The launch of the new tools comes as a recent report from NBC News investigated the deaths of teens and young adults who allegedly used Snapchat to purchase pills that had turned out to be laced with fentanyl. The report alleged that drug dealers have been using the social media platform to find buyers and that Snapchat isn't doing enough to prevent harm.

“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. We are determined to remove illegal drug sales from our platform,” the company said.

Social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, which are geared toward young users, are facing increased pressure to crack down on the sale and promotion of illicit drugs as overdose deaths continue to soar. Parent groups have argued that the digital giants aren’t doing enough to prevent harm to young users on these apps. Additionally, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning last week about the increase of fake pills laced with fentanyl.

The administration released a public safety alert “warning the American public about the increasing availability of fake pills that are more deadly than ever before, and that are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl.”

Snapchat has said it’s “heartbroken” that drugs have taken the lives of people in its user community and that it will work to do better and keep its users safe.

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