The FBI and Department of Justice are reportedly looking into Snapchat’s involvement in the spread of fentanyl-laced pills that are fueling a spike in fatal overdoses among young people.
Investigators are contacting the families of children who died after ingesting fentanyl to explore links between their social media accounts and their dealers, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
The subpoenaed Snapchat posts suggest some teenagers believed they were buying prescription painkillers like Percoset, the outlet reported. But they were clearly sold pure fentanyl — just two milligrams of that is enough to kill.
Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI immediately responded to requests for comment.
A Snap spokesperson told CNET that the company is committed to combating the fentanyl poisoning crisis, including by closing dealer accounts and blocking search results for drug-related terms.
“We will continue to do everything we can to combat this epidemic,” the spokesperson said, “including by working with other technology companies, public health agencies, law enforcement, families and nonprofits .”
The company also mentioned Family Center, a new tool that allows parents to view all the accounts their teens are communicating with on Snapchat and report any accounts of concern.
Last month, the National Crime Prevention Council asked federal authorities to investigate Snapchat “as the platform of choice for fentanyl drug dealers.”
Snapchat’s disappearing messages and encryption technology make it particularly attractive to providers, the organization said.
“Drug dealers are using American innovation to sell deadly products,” NCPC Director Paul DelPonte said in an open letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland. “In about the same amount of time it takes to read this letter, someone will die of fentanyl poisoning because they bought a fake pill on a social media platform like Snapchat.”
From 2019 to 2021, overdose deaths among Americans ages 10 to 19 increased by 109%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with illegally manufactured fentanyl responsible for 84% of those deaths.
Snapchat has more than 89 million US users, with nearly half (48%) between the ages of 15 and 25.
Its parent company, Snap, removed more than 270,000 pieces of content in the first half of last year for violating policies on illegal drugs, according to a transparency report. That represents less than 5% of the drug-related content reported to the company during that time frame.
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee discussed the role of technology companies in the fentanyl crisis.
Laura Marquez-Garrett of the Legal Center for Victims of Social Media, who was scheduled to speak at the roundtable, told Bloomberg, “the death of America’s children from fentanyl poisoning is not a social media issue — it’s a Snapchat issue.”
Read on: Snapchat Says It’s Cracking Down on Drug Deals on the App