Snapchat is adding a new security feature to make it harder for strangers to contact minors on the app as part of a broader effort to crack down on illegal drug sales and fentanyl overdoses.
The company said Newsweek Tuesday that it is changing its “Quick Add” friend suggestion so that account users cannot discover new users under the age of 18 unless they have a specific number of friends in common. Previously, this feature allowed Snapchat users to connect whether or not they know each other in real life.
The new move is part of a wider effort by Snapchat to crack down on drug sales, following reports that a growing number of teenagers have died of overdoses after buying drugs on the app.
“While we know that drug dealers seek to connect with potential customers on platforms outside of Snapchat, we want to do everything we can to prevent minors from being discovered on Snapchat by people who may have unlawful or harmful behavior,” a company spokesperson said. Recount Newsweek.
In recent months, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook have come under scrutiny for the number of sales of illicit drugs on each platform, particularly pills containing the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Last summer, a group of activists rallied outside Snapchat’s headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to demand reform after 14-year-old Alexander Neville overdosed on fentanyl, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Alexander’s mother, Amy, has demanded action in response to her son’s death, alleging that buying drugs on Snapchat is too easy.
“If it was still scary to get drugs, fewer kids would do it,” Neville told the newspaper. “Right now it’s like ordering food and getting it delivered. It’s that simple.”
In an interview with CBS last month, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram specifically called out social media companies for the problem, saying they “need to do more” to combat the virus. drug traffic.
“Drug traffickers exploit social media because it is accessible. They can access millions of Americans, and it’s anonymous and they can sell these fake pills and lie on these social media sites about it,” Milgram said. “We know every day across America that drugs are being sold on these social media sites Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook.”
Milgram added that the DEA seized enough fentanyl last year “to kill every American,” with an estimated 100,000 people dying from drug overdoses in the United States alone.
Last October, Snapchat responded to the growing scrutiny with an initial approach to drug reform, saying it had increased its security and law enforcement efforts to crack down on illicit sales.
Now the company said Newsweek, 88% of the drug-related content it uncovers is detected using artificial intelligence, with the rest reported by Snapchat users. The company also said it grew its law enforcement operations team by 74% in the past year.
Snapchat has also partnered with nonprofits to provide medication resources and safety information to app users.
“We know that drug traffickers are constantly looking for ways to exploit messaging and social media apps, including trying to find new ways to abuse Snapchat and our community, to conduct their illegal and deadly business.” , the company said Tuesday.
“Our position on this has always been clear: we have absolutely zero tolerance for drug trafficking on Snapchat. We continue to develop new measures to keep our community safe on Snapchat,” the company said.
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