This month the Social Media Victims Law Center brought forth its fifth lawsuit against Snap, Inc. alleging a series of features on the popular social media app, Snapchat, allow for a "Snapchat Drug Cartel" to operate and therefore has contributed to the deaths of nine minors and young adults in several states.
The suit was filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles last week, and is the fifth piece of litigation filed by the firm against Snap, Inc. since January 2022.
"They [Snap, Inc.] should be held liable for turning a blind eye to the hundreds of children that die from [a] fentanyl overdose through illicit drugs obtained through their platform," Matthew Bergman, founder of the Center told Fox News.
The Center’s most recent wrongful death lawsuit represents parents from Florida, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Louisiana and alleges the parents’ children died after ingesting fentanyl-laced drugs purchased through the app.
SNAPCHAT LAWSUIT ALLEGES 8 FENTANYL DEATHS ACROSS 6 STATES RESULTED FROM PILLS PURCHASED THROUGH APP
"In the eyes of the parents, and they say this to me time and time again, if one child is spared through this work, then it's all worth it," Bergman said. "That's the way we feel and that's how we approach it."
Since the Center’s first lawsuit against the big-tech company it has come to represent a total of 35 families with similar allegations towards the social media app.
The most recent lawsuit specifically references Snapchat’s "My Eyes Only" and "Snap Map" features -- claiming they enable the illegal drug sales of fentanyl-laced, counterfeit pills.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 24: In this photo illustration a mobile phone screen displays the Snapchat logo in front of a keyboard in Istanbul, Turkey on February 24, 2020. (Muhammed Enes Yildirim / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
"The disappearing message feature makes it easy for drug dealers to kind of have a menu [of drugs] and in many cases, we actually have a true menu that they send these kids to communicate about delivering drugs often at somebody's doorsteps," Bergman said. "And they [dealers] do so with the knowledge that the evidence of this crime will be disappeared forever, hidden from law enforcement and hidden from parents and hidden from any accountability."
Rebekah Brown said she discovered a "menu" of drug offerings on her son’s Snapchat after his death.
Sept. 2, 2021, 18-year-old Cole Brown died of fentanyl toxicity after ingesting a counterfeit Percocet pill purchased through Snapchat, according to Rebekah Brown.
Brown said her son began experimenting with drugs after struggling with his father’s passing and depression.
"I never condoned in our home – we weren't drug users, we weren't alcoholics. You know, we did get our son help," she said, fighting back tears. "He [Cole] was not wanting to die, you know, and kids make mistakes, but these days they're dying from them."
Bergman holds a similar position, citing the impressionability of adolescents.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized over 1.2 million fentanyl pills between two busts on Dec. 29. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
"Let us be clear, we do not condone the sale of drugs or prescription drugs that are illicit. We don't condone that in any way, shape or form," the attorney said. "But we know that young people make bad decisions, they shouldn't have to die for it in every case. These are not children that are seeking fentanyl, they're seeking OxyContin, they’re seeking Percocet".
A spokesperson for Snapchat wouldn't comment on the active litigation but said the company had made concerted efforts over the past two years to combat the issue to include: technology upgrades to detect and remove drug dealers, new protections for users and increased collaboration with law enforcement.
The company said since September 2021 over 23% of drug-related reports received from users pertaining to sales, had been driven down to 3.3% in December of last year.
Police officers check on a man who said he has been smoking fentanyl in downtown Seattle on March 14, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Use of the powerful opioid has surged in the last several years, especially in Seattle's large homeless community. According to a recent report commissioned by Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis, the COVID-19 pandemic put undue pressure on the city's shelter system and delayed funds for new housing, leading to an increase in homelessness. ((Photo by John Moore/Getty Images))
In October of last year, Snapchat released a tool called "Family Center" for parents to monitor and report concerning activity. This week, the company debuted new content controls for the tool to allow for parents to "limit the type of content their teens can watch on Snapchat."
Last month, during a hearing at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on countering illicit fentanyl, Anne Milgram, administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration, pointed blame at not only Snapchat, but rather, social media in its entirety
"We are in a very different position than we were 20 years ago before social media existed, where someone who might be selling narcotics had more of a personal relationship with the person who was buying," Milgram explained to the committee. "Today, 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."
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Later during her testimony, Milgram added: "We are on these social media websites, platforms, and we are seeing drug marketing and drug sales for these fake prescription pills, fake oxys, fake Adderall, fake Percocet that have been up for months."
Milgram said the current efforts being made by social media platforms to combat illegal drug sales "aren’t enough."