More than 60 families suing Snapchat after they say overdose deaths linked to social media app

ByAndrea Fujii ABCNews logo
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Parents suing Snapchat for overdose deaths connected to social media app
Parents suing Snapchat for overdose deaths connected to social media app

There's a new legal battle over drugs available on social media. Now, some families who've lost children to a drug overdose are suing Snapchat and demanding changes to protect kids.

Dozens of parents are pleading for change and are suing the social media platform, claiming their children died after taking illegal drugs sold by dealers on the app.

"Snapchat is the largest open-air drug market we have in the United States when it comes to our kids," said parent, Amy Neville.

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"Putting your kid on Snapchat, it's like dropping him off in the most dangerous, drug-filled neighborhood and hoping he does well for himself," added Sam Chapman, who is a father.

More than 60 families have joined the suit that claims Snapchat's features, including automatically deleted messages and the "my eyes only" privacy make illegal activities harder to track.

Neville remembers the night her 14-year-old son, Alexander, told her about his drug use.

"'I wanted to experiment with oxy. I got some from a dealer on Snapchat. It has a hold on me and I don't know why,'" she recalled him saying.

Alex died the next night after his mother said he took a fentanyl-laced oxycodone pill he allegedly got from someone he met on Snapchat.

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"The dealers in our kids' pocket 24/7," Neville said. "They come to your home and deliver to your house or somewhere nearby. It's very easy."

Sammy Chapman also died. He was just 16 years old when his parents said he overdosed on fentanyl he got from a "dealer" he allegedly met on the app.

"He delivered a lethal dose of fentanyl to our home like a pizza," said Sammy's father.

Snap, Inc., the owner of Snapchat, responded to the claims, saying it uses "cutting edge technology" to try and keep users safe and is "...working hard to stop dealers from abusing our platform and to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl."

However, many of the parents said they're not suing for money. They just want more done to protect kids.

RELATED: Children under 5 are increasingly victims of opioid epidemic, study finds

"Let's be honest, right? They designed it. They know how to fix it," Neville said.

As for Chapman's death, his family said the local district attorney decided not to prosecute the alleged drug dealer. They're now pushing for Sammy's Law, aimed at holding social media companies responsible for crimes committed on their platforms.