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Snapchat fights drug dealing on app amid surge in youth overdose deaths

24 Jan 2022 By theguardian

Snapchat fights drug dealing on app amid surge in youth overdose deaths

Snapchat has announced new efforts to combat drug dealing on the platform, changes that come as drug-related deaths among US high school and college-aged youth are exploding.

The company said it has improved automated drug detection systems, enhanced partnerships with law enforcement, and launched a new portal educating users on the dangers of drugs.

The new steps come after the CDC warned in late 2021 of a major spike of drug overdoses driven by fentanyl, with young people being the most impacted. The cheap, synthetic opioid is up to 100 times more potent than heroin and is often mixed into counterfeit pills that young people buy on social media, mistaking them for pharmaceutical drugs.

Fentanyl fatalities rose to more than 93,000 in 2020, a 32% increase from 2019. According to a recent Guardian analysis of federal data, youth under 24 have been the hardest hit, with drug deaths up by 50% in that age group.

Snapchat said it increased its proactive detection of drug sales by 390% in the past year, increasing them by 50% in the last quarter alone. It added that when its systems detect drug dealing activity, the account is promptly banned and the creator blocked from creating new accounts on Snapchat.

The company said it has increased collaborations with law enforcement and improved response times to law enforcement inquiries by 85% over the past year.

In its blog post, Snapchat said it is working with experts to continually update the list of slang and drug-related terms blocked from search results on Snapchat.

Indeed, Instagram executive Adam Mosseri faced questions about the issue in a 2021 congressional hearing.

Parents of children who died of fentanyl overdoses previously shared with the Guardian screenshots of Snapchat accounts selling pills. One woman, Perla Mendoza, said her 20-year-old son died in September 2020 after buying fake Xanax.

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