(NEW YORK) — Nearly two years ago in June 2021, mom Fran Humphreys got a phone call at work that no parent wants to receive.
“I was called at work and came home to the chaos and the grief,” the nurse recalled to ABC News’ Good Morning America.
Fran Humphreys was told that her 20-year-old daughter Sophia Humphreys had been found unresponsive in bed and died. Later, she and her husband learned that their daughter had allegedly been sold fake Percocet pills through the popular social media app Snapchat.
“Immediately, the law enforcement took her phone,” Fran Humphreys said. “And the detective called us shortly after and said that they were able to see that she had purchased it from a Snapchat dealer.”
Fran Humphreys is just one of 25 families who have sued Snap, Inc, the company behind Snapchat.
“No parent should have to go through this,” Fran Humphreys said.
One lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles by the Social Media Victims Law Center on behalf of 18 plaintiffs, and obtained by ABC News, claims the social media giant “facilitates – and profits from – designing a product that markets and sells lethal drugs to its young users” and accuses it of enabling drug dealers to allegedly sell drugs like fake prescription pills that are laced with fentanyl to minors and young adults.
Matthew Bergman, a founding attorney of Social Media Victims Law Center, told GMA Snapchat is the differentiator in this particular case.
“They all lost a child to fentanyl poisoning through counterfeit drugs obtained through Snap, not through Instagram, not through TikTok, but through Snap,” Bergman claimed. “This isn’t an internet problem. This isn’t a social media problem. This is a Snapchat problem.”
According to the lawsuit, “From 2020 through 2022, Snapchat was involved in over 75 percent of the fentanyl poisoning deaths involving children between the ages of 13 to 18 and involving a dealer who was connected with the child via social media.” The dealers, according to the lawsuit, would sell fatal fentanyl doses that were often counterfeit or disguised as prescription drugs.
Some of Snapchat’s features that set it apart from other apps, like automatically deleted messages, are especially attractive to drug dealers, the lawsuit alleges, making illegal activities harder to track.
Bergman told ABC News the families in the lawsuit hope to see changes to Snapchat, including ending the the disappearing messages feature, improving the detection of and permanent removal of drug dealers from the app, and improving notifications for parents and children of what they call a “clear and present danger” that exists on the app.
In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Snap. Inc. said they could not comment on any active lawsuits but claimed the company was using “cutting-edge technology to … proactively find and shut down drug dealers’ accounts.”
“We block search results for drug-related terms, redirecting Snapchatters to resources from experts about the dangers of fentanyl. We continually expand our support for law enforcement investigations helping them bring dealers to justice, and we work closely with experts to share patterns of dealers’ activities across platforms to more quickly identify and stop illegal behavior,” the statement continued.
They added, “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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