NBC has an excellent story that takes a look at the trend of young adults attempting to buy prescription or recreational drugs from dealers on Snapchat — and ending up with fentanyl instead. The report tells the story from the perspective of several parents who have lost children and who suspect that they bought the pills using the popular chatting app. It also goes into how Snapchat is trying to deal with the problem and the difficulties that come with that moderation, both for parents and law enforcement.
Some parents suspect their children were trying to obtain painkillers to deal with various pains that weren’t being addressed by doctors or dentists, while some say their kids were trying to escape a world of emotional turmoil. In at least one instance, a parent suspects Snapchat facilitated a deal with a drug dealer who might only live a few blocks away.
Snapchat isn’t off the hook
None of that is to say that Snapchat is off the hook. One mother talks about how the suspected dealer is still advertising pills months later. Another parent says that it took Snap five months to provide info to law enforcement on one suspected dealer, who was eventually arrested. Snap told NBC that it works with the DEA to figure out how it should proactively scan for drug-related content, and that it deletes accounts it suspects belong to dealers. As NBC points out, though, it’s not difficult to create a new one. A Snap spokesperson told The Verge that drug-related activity isn’t allowed on its platform, and that accounts caught dealing drugs would be deleted and possibly sent to law enforcement.
The NBC story raises questions about how to effectively moderate subjects related to drug use and the role of Snapchat in fentanyl’s wildfire-like spread. For that, it’s well worth the read.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is also an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.
Update October 2nd, 2:04PM ET: Added statement from Snap.