FBI probes Snapchat over role in fentanyl overdose deaths: report

Given Snapchat’s appeal among young people, the Ad Council enlisted its help promoting fentanyl awareness campaigns over the past year.

Snapchat has more than 360 million DAUs. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The FBI is examining Snapchat’s role as a tool for drug dealers to dispense fentanyl to young people in the U.S., according to a Bloomberg report.

Bloomberg reported that FBI and attorneys associated with the Department of Justice are probing fentanyl poisoning cases in which the sales were arranged via Snapchat. 

Federal law enforcement agencies have interviewed families of children who died due to fentanyl poisoning, seeking to access their social media accounts to see how drug dealers arranged deals.

In a statement emailed to Bloomberg, a Snap spokesperson said the company is “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.”

As of Q3 2022, Snapchat had 363 million daily active users, according to research from marketing intelligence startup Demand Sage, with more than 80% of teenagers in the U.S. using the app at least once a month.

The rise of fentanyl has also created a spike in drug overdose deaths among high school students in the U.S. since 2019, according to a study published in JAMA in April 2022. Researchers attributed the rising fatalities to the influx of counterfeit pills that look like real medicine but may contain fentanyl, which even in small doses can be lethal. 

Given Snapchat’s appeal among young people, the Ad Council has enlisted its help, alongside other tech giants, in promoting fentanyl awareness campaigns over the past year. As part of a two-part campaign last summer, the Ad Council launched a public awareness effort about the national overdose epidemic targeting teens and young adults thanks to creative led by JOAN and support from Snap, Google and Meta.

Last fall, the Ad Council again leaned on JOAN, Snap and other tech players for its Real Deal on Fentanyl campaign to educate children and teens on the dangers of fentanyl through messages delivered by former drug dealers. 

Bloomberg’s reporting coincided with a hearing Wednesday held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss the role of large technology companies and the fentanyl epidemic. 

News of the FBI and DOJ interest in Snapchat as a facilitator of fentanyl deals also comes days after the family of Ciara Gilliam, a 22-year-old woman who died after taking a fentanyl-laced pill, sued Snap over her death.

The lawsuit alleges that Snapchat’s features connected Gilliam to a dealer who sold her Xanax laced with fentanyl, which resulted in her death. 

In response to a request for comment from KCCI, a Snap spokesperson said the company is “committed to bringing every resource to bear to help fight this national crisis.”

This story first appeared on mmm-online.com. 

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