Continuing our Efforts to Combat the U.S. Fentanyl Crisis

October 12, 2022

Next week, Snap will be launching an unprecedented public awareness campaign with the Ad Council to help educate both parents and young people on the dangers of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. Last year, fentanyl became one of the leading causes of death for adults in the U.S. ages 18-45 – and we know young people are especially at risk. That’s why we worked with the Ad Council for more than a year to collaborate on this effort, bringing together Snap, YouTube, and other industry partners on this critical issue.

This campaign will build on work we have been doing over the past 18 months to help raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl directly on our platform, through video campaigns, original content, and resources from expert organizations. During this time, we have worked vigorously to improve our efforts to proactively detect and remove drug dealers who try to exploit Snapchat and increased our support for law enforcement investigations to bring these dealers to justice. We have been committed to providing regular updates about our progress and, ahead of next week’s campaign launch, we are sharing the latest overview of our ongoing work to combat this national epidemic. 

  • Strengthening our proactive detection: We continue to strengthen our AI and machine learning tools that help us proactively detect dangerous drug activity on Snapchat. Our most advanced models are now helping us​ to​ proactively identify approximately 90% of illicit drug activity before a Snapchatter has the opportunity to report it to us, and we are continuing to see a decrease in the number of drug-related reports from Snapchatters. In September 2021, over 23% of drug-related reports from Snapchatters contained content specifically related to sales; as a result of proactive detection work, we have driven that down to 3.3% as of last month. We will keep working to get this number as low as possible.

  • Working across platforms to find drug dealers: Knowing that drug dealers operate across a range of social media and communications platforms, we also work with experts to find illicit drug-related content across these other platforms that references Snapchat, so we can find drug dealers’ Snapchat accounts and shut them down. When we find drug dealers using Snapchat, we not only ban their accounts but we take active steps to block them from creating new ones. We are also continuing our partnership with Meta to share patterns and signals of illicit drug-related content and activity, and we hope other platforms will join the effort.

  • Growing our support for law enforcement: Even as we faced economic headwinds over the last year, we continued to grow our law enforcement team that supports these investigations, with many team members joining us from careers as prosecutors and law enforcement officials with experience in youth safety. These investments have helped us continue to strengthen our support for fulfilling law enforcement requests for information, which we prioritize based on urgency. In the case of emergency disclosure requests – which involve imminent threat to life and can include a fentanyl incident – our 24/7 team usually responds within 30 minutes. We have also continued to improve our response times for requests that don’t involve an imminent threat to life.

  • Launching new parental tools: We recently introduced Family Center, our first in-app parental tool that enables parents to see a list of all of the people their teens are communicating with on Snapchat. If a parent sees a concerning or unfamiliar account, including one they suspect is involved in drug-related activity, they can easily and confidentially report it to our Trust and Safety teams. We hope these tools will help empower parents to initiate important conversations with their teens about online safety and the importance of knowing who they are in contact with. You can read more about Family Center, including how to sign up, here.

  • Streamlining our reporting process: We updated our in-app reporting process to reduce the number of steps and add more reporting categories, including a category for drugs, so Snapchatters can report harmful content or accounts more quickly and accurately. Additionally, ​as part of our ongoing focus on improving our transparency reports that we publish twice a year, we recently started breaking out drugs into its own category so we can provide additional detail about our enforcement efforts. 

  • Providing extra safeguards for teens: While we want Snapchat to be safe for everyone, we have additional protections in place to make it harder for teens to be contacted by people they don’t know. By default, Snapchatters under 18 have to be mutual friends before they can start communicating with each other. Teens can only show up as a suggested friend to another user if they have multiple friends in common, and we don’t allow them to have public profiles. 

  • Raising awareness directly with Snapchatters: We block search results for drug keywords and slang; if Snapchatters search for those keywords, we instead direct them to content about the dangers of fentanyl created by expert partners through our dedicated in-app portal, called “Heads Up.” Over the past year, we have continued to add new resources from leading organizations such as Song for Charlie, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Truth Initiative, and the SAFE Project. Since the launch of Heads Up, over 2.5 million Snapchatters have been proactively served content from these organizations. Our news show, Good Luck America, which is featured on our Discover content platform, has also dedicated a special series to educate Snapchatters about fentanyl that has been viewed over 900,000 times. 

  • Evolving our Safety Advisory Board: We recently rebuilt our Safety Advisory Board (SAB), with the goal of adding members who represent the many geographies of our global community, safety-related disciplines, and areas of expertise. Our new Board now includes experts in online risks, including lethal drugs, along with parents and survivors. The new board will advise us on a wide range of issues and will meet for the first time later this month. You can read more about our new SAB here.

As the Ad Council campaign gets underway, we will continue to work with expert organizations to develop additional resources for parents about the fentanyl epidemic, the root causes of it, and what to look out for. And we remain deeply committed to building on both our operational and educational work to fight this crisis, both on Snapchat and across the tech industry. 

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