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FBI Probes Snapchat's Role In Fentanyl Poisoning Deaths

Thursday January 26, 2023. 02:00 AM , from Slashdot
Federal agencies are questioning Snapchat's role in the spread and sale of fentanyl-laced pills in the United States as part of a broader probe into the deadly counterfeit drugs crisis. The Los Angeles Times reports: FBI agents and Justice Department attorneys are zeroing in on fentanyl poisoning cases where the sales were arranged to young buyers via Snapchat. The agents have interviewed parents of children who died and are working to access their social media accounts to trace the suppliers of the lethal drugs, according to the people. In many cases, subpoenaed records from Snapchat have shown that the teenagers thought they were buying prescription painkillers, but the pill they swallowed was pure fentanyl -- a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than morphine.

On Wednesday, the involvement of technology companies in the ongoing fentanyl crisis will be discussed on Capitol Hill at a House Energy and Commerce Committee roundtable. One of the listed speakers, Laura Marquez-Garrett, an attorney with the Social Media Victims Law Center, said Snapchat will be the focus. 'The death of American children by fentanyl poisoning is not a social media issue -- it's a Snapchat issue,' she said. While dealers use many social media platforms to advertise their drugs, experts, lawyers and families say Snapchat is the platform of choice for arranging sales. Dealers prefer to use Snapchat because of its encrypted technology and disappearing messages -- features that have given the platform an edge over its rivals for fully legitimate reasons and helped it become one of the world's most popular social media apps for teens.

Former White House drug czar Jim Carroll said drug traffickers are always going to flock to where the young people are. 'From everything I have read, I do believe that Snapchat has been more widely used for facilitating drug sales,' than other platforms, said Carroll, who serves on Snap's safety advisory council and now works for Michael Best Consulting. 'I think that's because of its popularity among the young.' In December, Snap reported 363 million daily active users in its quarterly earnings report. That same month, the National Crime Prevention Council wrote a letter to Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland, urging the Justice Department to investigate Snap and its business practices. 'Snapchat has become a digital open-air drug market allowing drug dealers to market and to sell fake pills to unsuspecting tweens and teens,' the letter said. Garland didn't respond, but federal investigators have started to ask questions, multiple people said. Santa Monica-based Snap, which makes Snapchat, said it has worked with law enforcement for years to clamp down on illegal activity on its platform and has boosted moderation efforts to detect illegal drug sales. Last year, Snap said it removed more than 400,000 user accounts that posted drug-related content.

'We are 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,' Rachel Racusen, a Snap spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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