Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Snapchat finally adds safeguards against drug sales to minors


Snapchat, TikTok, and other major tech companies were grilled late last year by the U.S. Congress for what was deemed as their half-hearted safety measures and algorithms to protect children from illicit drug deals, pornography exposure, and other potential problems. Now, Snapchat has taken a major step to ensure user safety by launching a Quick Add feature to protect minors between the ages of 13 to 17 from harassment and drug usage.

Safer friends 

Quick Add is essentially a friend suggestion feature that allows a user to add friends faster rather than searching for them via their usernames. A user shows up in another person’s Quick Add list only if they have mutual friends or connections. For users younger than 18, in order to be discoverable in Quick Add, the underage user will need to have a certain number of mutual connections with the stranger to be allowed to add them to their network.  

Snapchat’s protective features could ensure that other tech companies follow suit. XanderSt / Shutterstock

Identifying bad actors

During the congressional hearing last October, it was revealed that two youngsters in Minnesota died after consuming pills purchased from dealers they met on Snapchat. Unbeknownst to them, the prescription painkillers were laced with fentanyl, which can be an extremely dangerous drug. 

To counter this, Snapchat has put measures in place to identify drug slang and will also report potential cases to law enforcement. The company has also added the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and Truth Initiative to its Heads Up portal to counter illegal drug usage. The platform claims that its updated A.I. algorithms can identify illegal accounts with more success, and even ban these users from creating new accounts.

Apps such as Instagram have also been called out over suggesting drugs to minors and for loopholes in profile restrictions for minors. 

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