DEA: Drug cartels using Snapchat, other social media to target children

(NewsNation) — Lawmakers on Wednesday discussed how Mexican cartels are using social media as a “superhighway of drugs” to bring fentanyl to the U.S.

Experts called for a change in tech companies after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said these cartels are targeting young Americans through social media platforms, fueling the fentanyl epidemic.

“The cartels understand that if someone dies from taking their deadly fentanyl, that there are 100 million other users on Snapchat that they can sell their drugs to,” said DEA administrator Anne Milgram, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In her testimony, Milgram specifically named the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels as being responsible for the U.S. fentanyl crisis, asking for Mexico’s cooperation in dismantling secret labs in their country.

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“The cartels are sophisticated now in realizing that they don’t necessarily need to have people standing on street corners pushing their drugs,” said former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan.

“They can hide behind the social media platforms in a very secure and discreet way and push their drugs out to our younger generation, and almost do it with the immunity of no enforcement whatsoever.”

Kaplan explained that Snapchat stands out from other social media platforms because its messages are designed to disappear.

“I have two children, they both have smartphones. You will not find Snapchat on either one of their devices,” said Kaplan.

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Amy Neville, whose 14-year-old son died after overdosing on a fentanyl-laced pill, says Snapchat was her son’s gateway to the drug and that the company needs to allow more transparency to hold them accountable.

Neville is now sharing her son’s story and trying to raise awareness.

“I believe Alexander may have known this drug dealer prior to his death, and they definitely connected through Snapchat. It was an easy way to order up some drugs for Alex and experiment, and it was super easy for this drug dealer to come right to our home and deliver them.”

Snapchat responded to the increased scrutiny, outlining their use of technology to help them find and shut down dealers’ accounts.

In a statement, a Snapchat spokesperson said, “We will continue to do everything we can to tackle this epidemic, including by working with other tech companies, public health agencies, law enforcement, families and nonprofits.”

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