- Snapchat’s disappearing messages helped teenagers to obtain the drug fentanyl, a lawsuit stated.
- Lawyers say the feature was defective as it helped facilitate illicit sales of the drug to minors.
- A Snap spokesperson said several allegations in the complaint appeared to be “wholly inaccurate.”
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Snapchat’s disappearing message feature helped enable the sale of fentanyl to teenagers who went on to die of overdoses, a lawsuit claimed.
According to a filing in a Los Angeles court seen by Insider, parents of teens who died from Fentanyl overdoses are pursuing Snap for strict product liability over what they claim is a design defect in the social media app Snapchat.
The lawsuit stated that Snapchat is marketed to minors, and that the erasing messages function encourages drug dealers to use the social media app.
“The product design of Snap, most notably its disappearing message feature which is engineered to evade parental supervision and law enforcement’s detection and acquisition of criminal evidence, was the direct and proximate cause of the untimely and tragic deaths and injuries at issue in this complaint,” the filing said.
A Snap spokesperson told Insider “several allegations in the complaint appear to be wholly inaccurate,” but did not give further details.
The spokesperson said Snap used “cutting-edge technology to proactively find and shut down drug dealers’ accounts, and we block search results for drug-related terms, instead redirecting Snapchatters to resources from experts about the dangers of fentanyl.”
Alexander Neville died of a Fentanyl overdose in June 2020 at the age of 14. His parents, Amy and Aaron, are part of the lawsuit.
The couple said their son communicated on Snapchat with a dealer called Aj Smokxy who supplied him with fentanyl, according to subpoenaed documents, the lawsuit said. They said Alexander had become increasingly anxious during COVID-19 as his use of the app increased.
“Amy went to her son’s room to wake him up for an orthodontist appointment. She opened the bedroom door and found Alexander’s body laying lifeless on his bedroom floor,” the lawsuit stated.
“Amy and Aaron administered CPR to their son as they waited for paramedics to arrive, but it was too late.”
The lawyers argued that Alexander was only able to obtain fentanyl from the dealer through the app.
“AJ Smokxy had no known connection to Alexander. They did not know each other in real life. The two would never have connected but for Snapchat,” the lawsuit said.
One of the parents’ lawyers, Laura Marquez-Garrett of the Social Media Victims Law Center, previously led a lawsuit against Meta alleging Instagram caused eating disorders among children.