Marshall, Shaheen, Grassley, Durbin, Young, Klobuchar Renew Effort to Hold Big Tech Accountable for Online Drug Deals
(Washington, D.C., March 30, 2023) – Today, U.S. Senators Roger Marshall, M.D., Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), Todd Young (R-IN), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Cooper Davis Act, legislation that would require Big Tech companies to take a more proactive role against drug dealers preying on America’s youth on social media. The bill is in honor of Cooper Davis, a 16-year-old Kansas teen who tragically lost his life to a counterfeit prescription drug laced with fentanyl in August 2021. It was later discovered that a drug dealer solicited Mr. Davis through a popular social media platform, Snapchat.
“We are incredibly honored to have Cooper’s name on this very important bill that could save countless American lives. Drug traffickers should not be able to use social media platforms as an integral part of their business plan for the marketing and distribution of illicit drugs. Accountability and oversight are desperately needed to ensure absolutely everything is being done to keep illegal activity off these platforms,” said Libby Davis, Cooper’s mother and founder of the Cooper Davis Memorial Foundation.
“Fentanyl is flooding into our communities. Just this month, Kansas authorities made busts in both Dickinson County and Montgomery County that resulted in finding nearly 15,000 fake pills laced with fentanyl,” said Senator Marshall. “This deadly drug is killing a Kansan almost every single day. This is a crisis and sadly our children do not know what they’re up against. If our nation is going to win this fight, we need Big Tech companies to crack down on drug dealers pushing this poison on their platforms to vulnerable teenagers like Cooper Davis and thousands of others.”
“Fentanyl is fueling the substance use disorder crisis impacting New Hampshire and our nation and it’s killing our kids. Tragically, we’ve seen the role that social media plays in that by making it easier for young people to get their hands on these dangerous drugs – we have to put a stop to it now,” said Senator Shaheen. “Social media companies have a moral responsibility to report illicit drug activity happening on their platforms, and our bipartisan legislation would help ensure they work with law enforcement to do exactly that. Our families and communities have dealt with enough tragedy and heartbreak – we must protect future generations from succumbing to substance misuse.”
“Tens of thousands of Americans are dying to drug overdoses, particularly because of illegally trafficked fentanyl. Law enforcement has found tragic numbers of overdoses cases tied to major social media platforms. It’s critical that there’s a comprehensive system for these companies to aid federal authorities so we can stop this poison,” said Senator Grassley.
“Our country is facing both: a kids’ online safety crisis and a fentanyl crisis. Today, drug dealers can easily target kids through social media platforms. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to curb the devastation caused by fentanyl, which we discussed in a recent hearing on kids’ online safety in the Senate Judiciary Committee. By holding Big Tech accountable for reporting when their platforms are used for illicit fentanyl trafficking, this bill will help equip law enforcement with information to fight fentanyl and protect kids,” said Senator Durbin.
“Fentanyl is devastating communities in Indiana and across our nation, and we need to do more to address the flow of these drugs, including distribution via social media, that are poisoning young Americans. Our bipartisan bill will give law enforcement officials more tools to combat the illegal sale and distribution of drugs,” said Senator Young.
“As we continue working to combat the fentanyl epidemic, we must prevent these deadly drugs from being easily sold through social media,” said Senator Klobuchar. “By requiring social media companies to report illicit fentanyl trafficking on their platforms, our bipartisan legislation will help law enforcement crack down on these illegal sales and protect kids.”
You may click HERE to read the Cooper Davis Act.
The legislation honors 16-year-oldCooper Davis from Johnson County, Kansas. In August 2021, Cooper and three of his friends were connected to a drug dealer on Snapchat and acquired what they believed was Percocet, an FDA-approved prescription drug used to treat moderate to severe pain. The pills were in fact counterfeit and laced with illicit fentanyl, a deadly synthetic narcotic. The four teenagers shared two fake Percocet pills. Cooper died from only taking half of a tablet, while his three friends survived.
Fentanyl is currently the most dangerous drug threat facing Americans, and fatal poisonings are the fastest growing among adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an analysis finding a 182 percent increase in illicit fentanyl overdose deaths among 10 to 19-year olds between 2019 to 2021. Counterfeit prescription pills were present in nearly 25 percent of deaths.
International drug cartels have come to dominate illicit fentanyl trafficking in the country, setting up vast, sophisticated distribution networks including online via social media. While investigating fentanyl-related deaths and poisonings, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have found an alarming rate of these deadly pills acquired through platforms like TikTok and Snapchat. In fact, within a five-month initiative involving hundreds of cases, the DEA linked 36 percent of cases to Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and TikTok. In addition, the DEA released an updated public safety alert finding that six out of ten fentanyl-laced counterfeit prescription pills contained a potentially lethal dose. This was an increase from the agency’s lab analysis from 2021, where the rate was four out of ten.
The Cooper Davis Act would require social media companies and other communication service providers to take on a more active role in working with federal agencies to combat the illegal sale and distribution of drugs on their platforms by creating a standardized and comprehensive framework:
- Requires communication service providers to report to the DEA on the sale or distribution of illicit drugs including fentanyl, methamphetamine, or a counterfeit controlled substance.
- Bolsters DEA’s existing data infrastructure to improve intelligence gathering on drug dealers operating across various online communication platforms.
- Improves coordination with other federal agencies, foreign agencies, and state and local law enforcement.
Earlier this month, Sens. Marshall, Shaheen, and Grassley, along with Judiciary Committee staff for Chairman Durbin, met with Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, for a discussion on the federal government’s ongoing response to the opioid epidemic. A key focus of their discussion was on ways to ensure Big Tech companies take a more proactive role against drug dealers preying on America’s youth through social media. Dr. Gupta shared his support for their effort and committed to working collaboratively with the Senators to protect young people from these threats. They discussed executive and legislative approaches to address this including the Cooper Davis Act.