Drug trafficking on Snapchat: families of victims call on social networks to act

In the United States, families of teenagers who died after consuming adulterated drugs purchased via Snapchat or other social networks asked these platforms on Monday June 13 to act against this scourge.

“I am here to warn people about the dangers of social media through which drugs and other crimes come into our lives, through our children”, explains to AFP Sam Chapman, who came to demonstrate in front of the headquarters of Snapchat, an application for sharing videos and photos very popular with young people, in Santa Monica. His son Sammy died in February 2021 from poisoning with fentanyl, an extremely potent and addictive opiate he was unaware of in the drug pill he got from Snapchat. Sammy should have celebrated his 18th birthday last weekend.

The teenager was in his room one Sunday evening, watching the final of the American football championship. “About an hour after bringing him food, we found him dead on the ground in a characteristic posture”says Sam Chapman, 57. “He stopped breathing, fell backwards from his chair and choked on his own vomit”a situation unfortunately very common among young people who think they are using recreational drugs but who unknowingly ingest fentanyl, he says.

Of the 107,000 overdose deaths recorded last year in the United States, 70% were caused by a “fentanyl poisoning”the leading cause of death now for Americans aged 18 to 45, indicate the associations behind this event.

According to Sam Chapman, a drug dealer had simply contacted his son on Snapchat, presenting him with a real “menu” with pills of all colors. “And at the very bottom, he said that he ensured the deliveries (…) as if it were a pizza”. For Sam Chapman, “Snapchat has become like the “dark web” for kids.” Like the other families of victims, he asks Snapchat and other favorite platforms for young people to take concrete action to stop this phenomenon.

“We have worked tirelessly to help combat this national crisis by eradicating illicit drug sellers from our platform”, reacted a spokesperson for Snapchat, asked by AFP. The Californian firm adds that it uses state-of-the-art technology to “proactively detect and close accounts” dealers on Snapchat and block results related to narcotics in its search engine. But for Sam Chapam, the system simply does not work because the dealers use emojis and code words which are not blocked.

The victims’ association VOID wants social networks to be held responsible for what happens to their users on their platforms, which is not currently the case. “If you are in a supermarket and you slip and fall, you can chase them”, pleaded the president of VOID during the demonstration. The law currently governing these platforms “was written in 1996. Lawmakers had no idea what the Internet would be like today”he insists.

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Drug trafficking on Snapchat: families of victims call on social networks to act

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