On Wednesday, the Energy and Commerce Committee convened a roundtable discussion about Snapchat and its role in the fentanyl crisis.

At the hearing on Wednesday, witnesses said that Snap's popular photo and texting app, known for its disappearing messages, was specially constructed in such a way that it attracted drug transactions.

The roundtable included the mother of a kid who died after taking a fentanyl-laced medication she allegedly acquired on Snapchat, believing it was a prescription medicine. It also included two lawyers who litigate such lawsuits against tech companies, as well as a Washington state sheriff who has investigated fentanyl deaths.

"Big Tech has many problems," Carrie Goldberg, one of the lawyers, said. "But the lethal fentanyl sales is not a general Big Tech problem. It's a Snap-specific problem. Snap's product is designed specifically to attract both children and illicit adult activity."

With regard to Snapchat's disappearing messages, anonymity, and real-time mapping features-which users must enable in order for their contacts to know their location-Goldberg expressed concern.

According to a report from Bloomberg on Wednesday, the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into Snap's involvement in the selling of fentanyl.

Other services like Facebook Messenger also worry lawmakers.

"This is not just Snapchat," Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., said. "It's all these social medias." Bilirakis pointed to two examples of someone buying a fentanyl-laced drug over Facebook Messenger, for example.

The Energy and Commerce Committee, now led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, votes on bills ranging from privacy to consumer protection to content moderation to health care.

McMorris Rodgers has indicated that the panel will aim to drastically reduce liability protections for tech platforms under her leadership, as advocates on the panel have urged should be done in the instance of wrongful death lawsuits.

According to a Snap representative, the firm is "dedicated to doing our part to combat the national fentanyl poisoning crisis, including using cutting-edge technology to help us proactively find and shut down drug dealers' accounts."

According to the representative, the company limits drug-related search results and leads customers to authoritative information about the dangers of fentanyl. The business claims it has enhanced parental control measures and machine learning to proactively stop illegal sales. It has also reportedly made it more difficult for adults to interact with minors unless they have several friends with them.

According to the study, drug-related reports from users have decreased from around 23% in September 2021 to about 3% in December 2022.

Section 230, according to Goldberg, is the "main hurdle" to holding tech companies accountable for harm done to their consumers. This is because it does not incentivize safety features and, in many circumstances, inhibits tech platforms from reaching the discovery stage, which may otherwise reveal internal knowledge, she said.