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Families of US overdose victims demand action from social media platforms

Protesters march outside Snapchat’s headquarters in Santa Monica, California on June 13, 2022, calling on social networks to block the sale of drugs on their platforms – AFP
  • Of 107,000 overdose deaths last year in the United States, 70% were caused by “fentanyl poisoning”.
  • A father says a drug dealer contacted his son on Snapchat.
  • Parents are calling on social media platforms to take stronger action against drug sales.

SANTA MONICA: Families of teenagers who died after overdosing on drugs purchased through Snapchat and other social media platforms on Monday called on tech companies to do more to address the problem.

Sam Chapman, a member of a group that staged a protest Monday outside Snapchat’s Santa Monica headquarters, said AFP her son died in February 2021 after a pill he purchased through the platform was mixed with the extremely potent opioid fentanyl.

“I am here today to warn people of the dangers of social media, which delivers drugs and other criminal acts into the lives of our families, through our children,” Chapman, 57, said.

His son Sammy would have turned 18 last weekend.

Chapman described the gruesome scene of finding his son dead on his bedroom floor, in what he called the “fentanyl death pose.”

“He had stopped breathing and fell backwards in his chair and vomited, and he choked on his own vomit… It’s a very common way to do it,” Chapman said.

Of the 107,000 overdose deaths recorded last year in the United States, 70% were caused by “fentanyl poisoning”, which is now the leading cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 45, according to the groups supporting Monday’s protest.

Chapman said a drug dealer contacted his son on Snapchat and sent him a “colorful drug menu with pictures.”

“Downstairs it said he delivered. And so he hooked up with our son and delivered the medicine to our house after we fell asleep, like it was pizza,” he said. he adds.

Like other family members of the victims, Chapman is calling on Snapchat and other youth-oriented social media platforms to take stronger action against drug sales.

“We have worked tirelessly to help combat this national crisis by eradicating illicit drug dealers from our platform,” a Snapchat spokesperson said. AFP.

“We use state-of-the-art technology to proactively detect and stop drug dealers who attempt to abuse our platform and block search results for dangerous drug-related content,” the representative added.

But Chapman said the tools currently in place aren’t working because dealerships are using emojis and codewords that aren’t blocked.

The Victims of Illicit Drugs (VOID) group is calling for an update to US law so that social networks are held accountable for what happens to their users on their platforms.

“If you walk into a grocery store and slip and fall, you can sue them,” said VOID president Jaime Puerta.

“The law was written in 1996,” he added.

“Legislators had no idea where the internet would be today.”

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