(NewsNation) — The FBI and Justice Department are targeting Snapchat and its parent company, looking into the social media platform’s possible role in the national fentanyl crisis, especially among teens.
The popular photo and messaging app is known for its disappearing messages and was recently called out by the National Crime Prevention Council last month, saying Snapchat is “the platform of choice for fentanyl drug dealers.”
Stuart Kaplan is a former FBI special agent. He thinks Snapchat may be even more dangerous with respect to children’s wellbeing.
“There became a common thread with respect to a lot of the drugs that were leading to these overdoses, and that is that young people were using Snapchat to buy and purchase their drugs. The FBI and the government quickly realized that drug dealers or drug czars were utilizing social media, and in particular Snapchat, to be able to be effective with respect to advertising their drug sales,” Kaplan said.
The CDC said fentanyl-related deaths of 10- to 19-year-olds, between 2019 and 2021, jumped 182%, with nearly a quarter of those deaths coming from counterfeit pills.
Amy Neville knows that pain firsthand. Her son, Alexander, was just 14 years old when he overdosed on a pill laced with the highly toxic drug. She said Snapchat was her son’s gateway to the opioid — and that the company should allow more transparency to hold them accountable.
“Let us in. Let in a transparency audit, third-party unrelated to snapchat to verify what you’re doing. Either to say that they’re getting this right…or that they’re totally missing the mark,” Neville said.
A representative for Snapchat says the company is “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.”
They said they also block and search for drug-related terms and improved parental supervision features.
“Whether it’s fentanyl or human sex trafficking, these kids are dying. They’re being targeted. Social media is too easy a platform for bad people who have nefarious motives, to target our children and take advantage of their immaturity and their inability to understand that they’re being preyed upon,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan urged parents to be more mindful of their children’s social media activity because he says they might not catch on that they’re being taken advantage of in certain situations.