Snapchat is finally adding protections against underage drug sales

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Snapchat, TikTok, and other big tech companies were grilled by the US Congress late last year for their half-hearted security measures and algorithms designed to protect children from illicit drug deals, pornography, and other potential problems. Now, Snapchat has taken a big step to ensure user safety by introducing a quick add feature to protect minors between the ages of 13 and 17 from harassment and drug use.

Safer Friends

Add quickly is essentially a friend suggestion feature that allows a user to add friends faster rather than searching for them by their usernames. A user only appears in someone else’s Quick Add list if they have mutual friends or connections. For users under the age of 18, in order to be discoverable in Quick Add, the underage user must have a certain number of reciprocal connections with the stranger in order to be allowed to add them to their network.

Snapchat’s protections could mean other tech companies follow suit. XanderSt / Shutterstock

Recognizing bad actors

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

To counter this, Snapchat has taken steps to identify drug slang and will also report potential cases to law enforcement. The company also added the Collaborative Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and Truth Initiative to its Heads-Up-Portal against illegal drug use. The platform claims that its updated AI algorithms can identify illegal accounts more successfully and even ban those users from creating new accounts.

Apps like Instagram have also been called out over underage drug suggestions and loopholes in underage profile restrictions.

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