How Snap is Responding to the Fentanyl Crisis

October 7, 2021

Drugs laced with fentanyl have contributed to an alarming increase in overdose deaths in the United States in recent years. Fentanyl is a potent opioid, deadly in quantities as small as one grain of sand. Drug dealers often use fentanyl to make counterfeit prescription pills, like Vicodin or Xanax, which when ingested can lead to death. 

We have heard devastating stories from families impacted by this crisis, including cases where fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were purchased from drug dealers on Snapchat. We are determined to remove illegal drug sales from our platform, and we have been investing in proactive detection and collaboration with law enforcement to hold drug dealers accountable for the harm they are causing our community. 

We believe it is our responsibility to keep our community safe on Snapchat and we have made significant operational improvements over the past year to eradicate drug sales from our platform and we are continually working to improve. Our work here is never done, but we want to communicate updates as we make progress so that our community can monitor our progress and hold us accountable.

Our most important investments over the past year have included significant investments in our Law Enforcement Operations, growing our team who supports valid law enforcement requests to meaningfully improve how quickly we can respond. While we still have work to do, across all types of law enforcement requests we receive, our response times have improved 85% year over year, and in the case of emergency disclosure requests, our 24/7 team usually responds within 30 mins.

We have significantly improved our proactive detection capabilities to remove drug dealers from our platform before they are able to harm our community. Our enforcement rates have increased by 112% during the first half of 2021, and we have increased proactive detection rates by 260%. Nearly two-thirds of drug-related content is detected proactively by our artificial intelligence systems, with the balance reported by our community and enforced by our team. We’ve also worked to improve our in-app reporting tools to make it easier and faster for our community to report drug-related content.

We will continue to work to strike the right balance between safety and privacy on our platform so that we can empower our community to express themselves without fear of harm. By design, Snapchatters control who can contact them and must opt-in to new conversations with friends. If a member of our community reports inappropriate content, it is escalated to our Trust & Safety team so that we are able to take appropriate action. We are also working on new family safety tools to provide more ways for parents to partner together with their teenagers to stay safe on Snapchat.

We also want to play a role in educating our community about the dangers of fentanyl. To inform our efforts, we commissioned research from Morning Consult to understand how young people perceive prescription drugs and fentanyl, and are sharing those findings here. We learned that teenagers are suffering from high levels of stress and anxiety, and are experimenting with the use of prescription drugs without a prescription as a coping strategy. It was also clear from the research that many people either don’t know enough about fentanyl to assess the danger, or believe fentanyl is less dangerous than heroin or cocaine. This lack of awareness can have devastating consequences when just one counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl can kill.

We have developed a new in-app education portal called Heads Up that distributes content from expert organizations such as Song for Charlie, Shatterproof, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), with additional resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be added in the coming weeks. This means that if someone on Snapchat searches for drug-related keywords, Heads Up will show relevant educational content designed to prevent harm to our community.

In partnership with Song for Charlie, we have developed a video advertising campaign that has already been viewed over 260 million times on Snapchat, and we are rolling out a new national filter that raises awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit pills and directs Snapchatters to the new Heads Up educational portal. A new episode of Good Luck America, a Snap Original news show, will premiere soon, continuing a special edition series of episodes devoted to educating our community about the fentanyl crisis.

We hope that our ongoing operational improvements and educational efforts will help to keep our community safe from the devastating impacts of the fentanyl crisis. We are heartbroken that drugs have taken the lives of people in our community. We deeply appreciate the generosity and kindness of families who have come forward to share their stories, collaborate, and hold us accountable for making progress. We will work tirelessly to do better and do more to keep our community safe.

- Team Snap

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