Recent report cites growing toll of fentanyl-laced pills in Miss. overdose deaths.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) joined seven colleagues in an effort to hold the CEOs of Instagram, TikTok, Snap Inc., and YouTube accountable for the role their platforms play in the nation’s overdose death crisis.

In a letter to the executives, the Senators demand answers on what actions the companies are taking to prevent the sale of fentanyl-laced pills to teenagers and young adults on their social media platforms.

“Overdose deaths related to fentanyl in Mississippi are increasing, some of it linked to illegal drug buys facilitated by social media,” Senator Hyde-Smith said. “We wrote a letter to social media execs seeking answers and action by these companies to help combat this crisis.”

“We write to you today regarding reports that the use of your social media platforms has been linked to the sale of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills that have caused the deaths of teens and young adults across the country,” the Senators wrote. “In light of the devastating rise in drug overdose deaths in the U.S., especially linked to fentanyl, we are requesting more information regarding steps your companies are taking to protect children and crackdown on illegal drug sales on your platforms.”

The Senators said that social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snap Inc., and YouTube provide a convenient venue for dealers to anonymously and discreetly peddle these counterfeit pills to a young audience

“With 4 in 10 of these pills containing a lethal dose of fentanyl, more and more of these online transactions are ending in tragedy,” the Senators continued.

The letter cites recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing drug overdose deaths reached a record-breaking level in 2021.

A growing share of these deaths are coming from overdoses involving fentanyl, the Senators wrote.

“According to a March 2022 Mississippi State Department of Health report, 69 percent of overdose deaths in Mississippi in 2020 involved opioids, with synthetic opioids like fentanyl accounting for 53 percent of all overdose deaths—up from 35 percent a year before,” a release from Senator Hyde-Smith’s office states.

The Senators ask that the executives to respond to the following questions:

  1. Each of your companies has noted, to some extent, your ability to detect harmful content, like illicit drug sales, on your platforms. How many such transactions occur as a result of your platform every day?
  2. How many accounts have you removed for drug-related activity? 
  3. Surveys conducted of your youngest users on their drug knowledge have found that they are dangerously naïve to the prevalence of fentanyl on your platforms and its lethality. With these statistics in mind, has your company considered raising their minimum age for users?
  4. Dealers will often move from one platform to another. How are you working with other platforms to share the relevant information about drug dealers and ensure their removal across platforms?
  5. What steps do you take to prevent banned users from creating new accounts?
  6. Do you offer any resources to the parents of your youngest users to monitor who they are communicating with on your platforms?
  7. What data are you sharing with law enforcement when you identify a drug dealer on your platform?
  8. Have you worked with any federal agencies like the U.S. Drug Enforcement
    Administration (DEA) or partnered with any organizations to raise awareness of the
    dangers of fentanyl? 
  9. What steps have you taken to raise awareness around the dangers of fentanyl amongst your users?