Transcript for Parents working with Snapchat to fight drugs being sold on social media
We-- have an alert for parents now. It's about how illegal drugs are sold on social media. We met with several parents taking action to help others after their children died from fentanyl. Becky Worley has the story. Good morning, Becky.
- George, good morning. We think of drugs being sold on street corners, but social media is often the source, especially for teens. But many of the pills, like Xanax, Percocet, or Adderall for sale on these platforms are counterfeits made with fentanyl that is killing tens of thousands of kids and young adults, like Sammy Chapman and Charlie Ternan.
CAMERAMAN: Hi, Charlie.
CAMERAMAN: Who are you?
BECKY WORLEY: Charlie Ternan was three weeks away from college graduation. But in May of 2020, his parents say he used Snapchat to buy what he thought was a Percocet.
- He was prescribed Percocet after his back surgery.
BECKY WORLEY: But they say it wasn't a Percocet. It was a fake pill laced with fentanyl. That night, their priest coming to the door.
- They said, you know, Charlie died. We're like, what do you mean Charlie died? Um, they think it's pills. We're like, pills?
- So this was Charlie's room?
- This was Charlie's room.
BECKY WORLEY (VOICEOVER): Charlie died of fentanyl poisoning.
The Ternans vowing to fight illegal pill sales online but taking a unique approach, trying to work with social media companies, approaching Snapchat directly.
- I think the light bulb moment for them was the deception, right, the fact that our users are being exploited by bad actors who are deceptively marking a highly potent chemical as a safe, familiar medicine.
BECKY WORLEY: Snapchat says it is now proactively filtering out approximately 95% of drug-related content. And as an indication that it's working, they say community flags of drug content related to sales have dropped from 25% to 2%, but the progress so far not enough for Dr. Laura Berman and her husband, Sam Chapman. They say their 16-year-old son, Sammy, died of fentanyl poisoning in February of 2021.
- After your kid passes, you want to find a purpose. You want to make their life worth something.
- We're doing it because we don't want any more kids to die. And every other parent that we've met is really doing it for the same reason.
BECKY WORLEY: Sammy's parents now part of a class-action lawsuit against Snapchat. Jennifer Park Stout is Snapchat's head of global public policy.
More than 50 families are suing Snapchat. What can you tell us about that litigation?
- My heart goes out to those families and to any family that has suffered, really, what is an unimaginable loss. And through our work at Snap, we've deployed technologies and tools and created new products that we think will really be effective in combating this problem.
BECKY WORLEY (VOICEOVER): She says Snap is taking action.
- If an account is flagged as being an account looking to sell drugs, that is immediately removed. The content is deleted. The account is then investigated.
BECKY WORLEY: UC San Diego researcher Timothy Mackey says that dealers use all the platforms, not just Snapchat.
- They may use Instagram to get as many messages as they can out. So that's their marketing tool. They may use a Telegram account to have a channel where people, you know, as a group, talk about drugs, sell drugs.
BECKY WORLEY (VOICEOVER): And while measures to target drug sales online have been raised in Congress--
- I would demand that the federal government and Congress pass laws to very explicitly make sure that this content is taken down and that there are penalties if those actions aren't taken.
BECKY WORLEY: Meanwhile, the Ternans say they're educating teens about the dangers of pills, both in schools and through social media.
- I keep saying to myself, what would Charlie want us to do?
- Charlie would want us to do good, and to help, to save lives.
- Meta says the sale of drugs on their platform is not allowed and they're doing their part to fight back against this practice. Telegram says they actively monitor the public parts of their app and that this is against their terms of service. But for parents watching this, the Ternans and their organization, Song for Charlie, have a really smart approach to talking with your kids.
In the car, when you have a captive audience, tell them this. Fentanyl poisoning is so scary. You can't let your friends take random pills.
So many of these pills are fake. The dealers don't even know what's in them. One pill can kill. And, George, this drug talk is not a one-time event. It's ongoing. It's probably awkward. But please, to all the folks listening, have it with your kids regularly.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We have had it with our girls several times. You are so right, Becky. It is so, so critical.
- It's such an important story that you're sharing, Becky, and I know your full report will be on Nightline. We thank you so much for that.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.