Snapchat limits friend suggestions to teen accounts and reveals measures to combat the spread of drugs

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 19, 2022
Updated 2022/01/19 at 2:52 PM

Snapchat has announced that it is working on a set of new parental controls that will help limit how users can contact minors on the messaging service. The company says it will restrict its Quick Add feature to limit adult strangers from finding minors in the app to add them as friends. The feature is designed to protect users between the ages of 13 and 17 in the app. The move is part of Snapchat’s efforts to combat the spread of fentanyl and drug-related content on its platform. Snapchat also says it is working to improve its systems for detecting drug-related content, as well as assisting law enforcement agencies with investigations.

On Tuesday, Snapchat explained in a blog post which added a new protection to the Quick Add feature that suggests friends to Snapchat users in the app. Strange adults will only see a minor user’s profile in Quick Add if they have a certain number of friends in common with them. Snapchat says the change will help ensure that profiles of users between the ages of 13 and 17 are discovered by someone they know in real life.

According to the blog post, Snapchat is taking these steps to fight the “fentanyl epidemic” and prevent drug dealers from connecting with minors on the platform. Snapchat and other network services were in the news amid the accidental deaths of several American teenagers due to fentanyl-filled pills sold online. These fake pills are sold on apps like Instagram and Snapchat, with deaths going up to over 93,000 in 2020.

In addition to tweaks to the Quick Add feature, Snapchat says it regularly works with experts to update its list of drug-related slang and terms that are blocked in the app. “This is an ongoing, ongoing effort that not only prohibits Snapchatters from getting search results for those terms,” the company explained. Users searching for these terms are shown as “specialized educational resources” as part of Snapchat’s Heads Up tool.

According to Snapchat, proactive detection rates of drug-related content on the service have increased by 390%, while 88% of all drug-related content is now proactively detected using machine learning and artificial intelligence. The company’s law enforcement team also grew 74% to preserve and disclose data for law enforcement requests. Snapchat says response times have improved by 85% over the past year. The service is also working on additional parental controls that will be added to the app in the coming months, Snapchat said in the blog post.

Meanwhile, Snapchat announced on Tuesday that it was releasing a new AR lens that makes users “disappear” when the filter is used. The new lens was introduced as part of a partnership with Lay’s to launch a new ‘Lay’s Wafer Style’ flat-cut chip. The messaging app regularly introduces filters and features as part of collaborations with brands such as Sony for ‘Sound Lenses’ that were introduced last year, or with the Indian Premier League (IPL) for four cricket teams in 2018 and with the WHO for Snap Lenses during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

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