Families Of Overdose Victims Demand Action From Social Media Platforms

A young person holds a sign as people opposed to the sale of illegal drugs on Snapchat participate in a rally outside the company’s headquarters to call for tighter restrictions on the popular social media app following fatal overdoses of the powerful opioid fentanyl in Santa Monica, California, June 13, 2022. (Photo by RINGO CHIU / AFP)

 

 

Families of teens who died after overdosing on drugs they bought through Snapchat and other social media platforms called Monday for tech firms to do more to address the problem.

Sam Chapman, part of a group that staged a protest Monday in front of Snapchat’s Santa Monica headquarters, told AFP his son died in February 2021 after a pill he purchased through the platform was laced with the extremely powerful opioid fentanyl.

“I’m here today to warn people about the dangers of social media, delivering drugs and other criminal acts into the lives of our families, through our children,” said Chapman, 57.

His son Sammy would have celebrated his 18th birthday last weekend.

Chapman described the horrific scene of finding his son dead on the floor in his bedroom, in what he said was called the “fentanyl death pose.”

“He had stopped breathing and fell backwards in his chair and vomited, and he choked on his own vomit… It’s a very common way of going,” said Chapman.

Of the 107,000 overdose deaths recorded last year in the United States, 70 percent were caused by “fentanyl poisoning,” which is now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, according to the groups backing Monday’s protest.

Chapman said a drug dealer had contacted his son on Snapchat, and sent him a “colorful drug menu with pictures.”

“At the bottom it said that he delivered. And so he connected with our son and delivered the drugs to our home after we were asleep, like it was a pizza,” he added.

Like the other victims’ family members, Chapman is calling on Snapchat and other social media platforms geared toward young people to take stronger action against drug sales.

“We have been working tirelessly to help combat this national crisis by eradicating illicit drug dealers from our platform,” a Snapchat spokesperson told AFP.

“We use advanced technology to proactively detect and shut down drug dealers who try to abuse our platform, and block search results for dangerous drug-related content,” the representative added.

But Chapman said the tools currently in place do not work because dealers use emojis and code words that aren’t blocked.

The group Victims of Illicit Drugs (VOID) is demanding US law to be updated so that social networks are held liable for what happens to their users on their platforms.

“If you’re walking in a grocery store, you slip and fall, you can sue them,” said VOID president Jaime Puerta.

“The law was written in 1996,” he added.

“The legislators had no idea of where the internet would be today.”

Judge’s Absence Stalls Cynthia Osokogu’s Murder Trial

The absence of the trial judge in the murder case of the late Cynthia Osokogu on Friday stalled proceedings.

No reason was given for the absence of Justice Olabisi Akinlade of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

A court official merely stated that she was “indisposed.”

The matter was consequently adjourned till the 12th of April for continuation of trial.

Ms. Osokogu, 24, was allegedly drugged and murdered inside a hotel room in Festac Town in Lagos by men she met and became friends with on the social media site Facebook last July.

Okwumo Nwabufor and Olisaeloka Ezike; the principal suspects had been charged with conspiracy to commit felony and murder of the deceased.

The other suspects; Osita Orji, the pharmacist who sold the Rophynol drugs to the alleged murderers and Nonso Ezike who sold the deceased’s Blackberry phone were charged with reckless, negligent act and possession of stolen property respectively.

All the suspects were in court today, including Mr. Orji who had been out on bail after the judge ruled in his favour last month.

Nonso, Olisaeloka’s younger brother, who had also been granted bail, but under stricter terms is still in prison custody as he is yet to meet the conditions.

After the new trial date was confirmed, Mr. Orji left the court with a friend, while the other suspects waited for the prison wardens to take them back to the Black Maria.

The murder trial has seen the prosecution call two witnesses, both of them former employees at the hotel where Ms. Osokogu died.

Chris Obiaka, counsel to Mr. Orji said that the trial has been enjoying an accelerated trial, as promised by the judge.

“The important thing is not to rush proceedings. It is to ensure that justice is done and done accordingly,” Mr. Obiaka said.