Snapchat ban on drug sales ‘top priority’, says Snap

Executives from Snap, TikTok and YouTube defended their efforts to protect children on their platforms as members of Congress beat them on Tuesday with questions about the algorithms, security measures and practices they use to keep children safe. young people engaged with their applications.

All executives have widely stated that they believe some explicit content for underage users should be restricted, but they have not committed to supporting specific legislation.

On October 26, the Senate Trade Committee’s hearing subcommittee was chaired by Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal. Today’s meeting comes right after revelations that Facebook the feeds exacerbated teens’ bodily problems and the algorithms directed them to damaging content.

Unlike Facebook, Snap, the Santa Monica-based social media company, has largely escaped government scrutiny. But the company was in the spotlight as it resisted questions from legislators on his responsibility to keep drug sales out of his Snapchat app. A bipartisan group of senators accused the company as well as TikTok and YouTube of failing to protect children from pornography and of posting messages encouraging suicide and drug use.

“It seems like every day I hear stories of kids and teens suffering after interacting with TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat. Children as young as nine have died doing viral challenges on TikTok,” said Republican Senator from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn. “We’ve seen teenage girls lured into inappropriate sex with predators on Snapchat. You are parents, how can you afford that? ”

Throughout her testimony, Jennifer Stout, Snap’s vice president of global public policy and former deputy chief of staff to John Kerry, tried to distance Snapchat from competitors like Facebook, its Instagram affiliate, TikTok and YouTube.

Stout has attempted to portray Snapchat content as more organized than his other social media counterparts, and argued that since it doesn’t have a timeline feature, the main purpose of the app is to facilitate direct messages between friends and groups of people who already know each other. .

Stout also fended off accusations that Snapchat is showing users a stream of harmful, unfiltered content on its Discover page by claiming that its “discovered content” is part of a guarded walled garden.

“It’s supposed to be a close ecosystem where we have better control over what content is surfacing,” she said.

Utah Senator Mike Lee rebuffed this Snapchat argument, saying his staff set up a fake account for a 15-year-old and were quickly bombarded with “extremely inappropriate” content, including a sexualized online video game. , articles on porn. stars and more on why not go to bars alone.

“I respectfully but very strongly pray that I disagree with your interpretation that the content is in fact suitable for ages 13 and up,” Lee told Stout.

Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, asked if Snap has done enough to prevent drug sales on the platform. Two teenagers from his condition – Devin Norrin, 19 and Ryan McPherson, 23 – died after taking pills from dealers they met on Snapchat, selling what they believed to be prescription pain relievers like Percocet, but which were in fact containing fentanyl.

Klobuchar asked Stout if Snap would be more transparent about the “automated tools” he uses to identify and remove illegal drug content.

“We have stepped up and deployed proactive detection measures to get ahead of what the drug dealers are doing. They constantly evade our tactics, not just on Snapchat, but across all platforms,” ​​Stout said.

Earlier this month, Snap announced in-app tools that funnel drug-related word searches into a drug education campaign and said it cracked down on the sale of illicit drugs on the site.

The movement came after the United States Drug Enforcement Agency reported an increase in the availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine often purchased from social media sites used by teens. Parents whose children have died from fentanyl-related overdoses have complained that the platform has become an e-commerce site for the sale of these dangerous drugs.

The cases of Norrin and McPherson are not an anomaly; NBC News reported this month as teens and young adults are dead of an overdose of fentanyl-containing pills they found through Snapchat in at least 14 states.

Klobuchar said social media companies should be held responsible if someone overdoses on drugs obtained through their apps.

“I think there are other ways of doing it as well, like creating accountability when it happens, so maybe that will make you work even faster so that we don’t lose another child,” he said. declared Klobuchar.

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