Snapchat announced in a Tuesday blog post that it would be changing its “Quick Add” feature to make it harder for users to befriend people under 18. The company said that this will make it more difficult for drug dealers to seek out adolescent buyers.
An October NBC News investigation highlighted how many adolescents had found fentanyl-laced pills through the platform, often intending to purchase less-deadly substances. Later in the month, Snapchat announced forthcoming parental controls and security measures that would be taken to curb drug sales.
At the time, the company also provided data into how well its existing content moderation tools were detecting and removing offending accounts and content — findings that were then updated in the blog post. According to the company, 88% of drug-related content it finds is now detected by machine-learning technology, while the other 12% is reported by the community. Snapchat also said it's increased law enforcement operations by 74%.
Snapchat has long had, on paper, a “zero tolerance” approach to “abuse directed at any member of our community,” according to the post. But adjusting the “Quick Add” feature is one of the first concrete steps Snap has announced since October. According to the company, users 17 and younger will now only be suggested to other users if they have a “certain number of friends in common with that person.” In other circumstances, users are suggested via “Quick Add” with a minimal number of friends or “another connection” in common.
Snapchat is not the only social media platform to come under fire for adolescent drug sales. Instagram, too, was publicly criticized for the same thing by the advocacy group Tech Transparency Project ahead of Adam Mosseri testifying before Congress about Instagram’s impact on children and teens. In response, Instagram highlighted that its machine-learning tools had removed around 1.8 million pieces of content related to drug sales, but that it would continue improving its moderation.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect the proper publication date of the blog post. This story was updated on Jan. 19, 2022.