Sand Springs Mom Joins Lawsuit Against Snapchat After Son Overdoses

A Sand Springs mother joined nine other parents in filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Snapchat, after she said a drug dealer used the app to sell her son a drug that was laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl.

Monday, March 6th 2023, 10:41 pm



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A Sand Springs mother joined nine other parents in filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Snapchat, after she said a drug dealer used the app to sell her son a drug that was laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl.

The lawsuit filed by the Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC) accuses the social media app of making it easy for drug dealers to target kids and then hide their communications.

Cole Brown was 18 when he died of a drug overdose in Lincoln, California.

"When you see somebody every day and you've, you know, carried them in your belly, birthed them, it's just absolutely devastating. Even down to just the smallest things like him texting me. I don't get that anymore. You know, I don't get to text him. I miss that. I miss everything about him. I miss everything,” said Rebekah Brown.

The Brown family has since relocated to Sand Springs.

"This is not about money to me, nor any of the families that have lost their kids. I can 100 percent assure you that. We want to make sure that this does not happen to another family and another kid. There is no amount of money that will ever bring my kid back, but if we can help save other families from this heartache and losing their children, then yeah, absolutely I am 100 percent in on this,” said Rebekah.

Rebekah said detectives told her Snapchat does not provide them with the information they need to find and convict these Snapchat drug dealers. Because messages disappear, maps show user locations and messages can be stored in separate, password areas.

She said these dealers are delivering drugs right to your door without you ever even knowing it.

“[Snapchat] opens you up to a whole world of drug dealers. Not only drug dealers but pedophiles, everything, right? Into your house, while you’re in your room and the kids are in their room or you’re in the living room; you never really know who they’re talking to,” said Rebekah. “[Cole] asked for a Percocet, and he essentially got an M30 pill, a perc that had enough fentanyl in it to kill three grown men, all through dealers he met on snapchat.”

Rebekah said she thought Snapchat was just a fun game with filters and “snap-streaks," but said this platform allows anything and everything to go without any red flag warnings.

"What's so unique and so attractive about snapchat to drug dealers is that they know they can send menus describing their particular drugs for sale and the evidence is gonna be destroyed. In the case of Cole, before law enforcement could do its job,” said Matthew Bergman, Attorney. "Sadly, we represent over 60 parents who have lost children to Fentanyl poisoning through prescription drugs, through counterfeit prescription drugs obtained on Snapchat and this is not a social media problem. This is a Snapchat problem. It results from the specific attributes of the Snapchat platform that make it easy to facilitate drug sales. In particular, the disappearing message function, the ‘For My Eyes Only" and the Snap Map.”

The lawsuit quotes the National Crime Prevention Council, saying in part, "...Snapchat is a ‘digital open-air drug market’ that allows dealers to advertise and distribute fake pills to tweens and teens who are unsuspecting."

"I am mad. I get so mad that this stuff is even going on and after looking at my son's phone, looking at the screenshots, the texts, you know dealers aren't your friend. It's horrible and heartbreaking and makes me so mad,” said Rebekah. "It makes me so mad because I had no idea how accessible my kid was on there. This is a theme with what has happened to our life, if I had only known back then what I know now, and it makes me so mad too because it's still happening."

Attorney Matthew Berman said parents need to have candid conversations with their kids.

He said this is the fifth lawsuit they’ve filed involving groups of children who have lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning caused by counterfeit drugs obtained through Snapchat.

"We would like to see Snapchat change its platform so that it's no longer the go-to app for drug dealers. In particular, the disappearing message function serves no productive purpose. It can be done away with, or it can be preserved at least for law enforcement purposes. Similarly, the ‘For My Eyes Only’ feature. Again, it doesn't serve any viable socially useful purpose and it can be done away with. They could change the design of their platform, Snapchat could, so that people could communicate and do so privately. You just wouldn't have the evidence immediately disappear to the detriment of law enforcement and public safety," Berman said.

Berman said the cases are pending in LA and the only certainty they have is this is a long, hard struggle, but one that is worth it.

Snapchat sent us the following statement: “The trafficking of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl is an urgent national crisis. It is devastating that these counterfeit drugs have taken the lives of so many people, and our hearts go out to families who have suffered unimaginable losses. We are committed to bringing every resource to bear to help fight this national crisis, both on Snapchat and across the tech industry overall. While we can’t comment specifically on active litigation, we can share all the progress we have made in this area. We use cutting-edge technology to help us proactively find and shut down drug dealers’ accounts. We block search results for drug-related terms, redirecting Snapchatters to resources from experts about the dangers of fentanyl. We continually expand our support for law enforcement investigations helping them bring dealers to justice, and we work closely with experts to share patterns of dealers' activities across platforms to more quickly identify and stop illegal behavior. We will continue to do everything we can to tackle this epidemic, including by working with other tech companies, public health agencies, law enforcement, families and nonprofits."

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