Snapchat is making it harder for children to buy drugs on the app with a series of changes. The company stated on their website it was taking measures to “protect 13 to 17 year olds” by restricting its friend recommendation feature known as “Quick Add.” People will not be able to suggest adding minors unless they have “a certain number of friends in common with that person — further ensuring it is a friend they know in real life.”
Snapchat says they “have absolutely zero tolerance for drug dealing on Snapchat.” The social media app’s “holistic approach” to crack down on drug-related activity includes “deploying tools that proactively detect drug-related content, working with law enforcement to support their investigations, and providing in-app information and support to Snapchatters who search for drug-related terms through a new education portal, Heads Up.”
Snapchat will also be developing new parental tools in the coming months, to give “parents more insight into who their teens are talking to on Snapchat, while still respecting their privacy.”
The company says it has increased its proactive detection rates by 390 percent – an increase of 50 percent since its last public update in October. They claim that 88 percent of drug-related content that they uncover is proactively detected by its machine learning and artificial intelligence technology, with the remainder reported by their community.
When Snapchat finds drug dealing activity, they “promptly ban the account, use technology to block the offender from creating new accounts on Snapchat, and in some cases proactively refer the account to law enforcement for investigation.”
An NBC News investigation from last October revealed that in the United States, Snapchat was used to sell prescription pills like Percocet, OxyContin or Xanax which were actually counterfeit, and contained a deadly dose of fentanyl that resulted in the deaths of a number of teenagers.
Per Snapchat’s statement, the CDC announced late last year that more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses — with fentanyl being a major driver of this spike. The company recognizes that drug dealers are constantly searching for ways to exploit messaging and social media apps “to conduct their illegal and deadly commerce.”
Per The Independent, Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, founder of drug education charity the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, said, “Social media platforms provide, however unwillingly from the platforms’ perspectives, an ideal space for drugs to be bought and sold, for so many reasons, not least because they give dealers easy access to thousands and thousands of young people, numerically the biggest age group using drugs.”