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Advocacy Grows as Lawsuits Target Social Media After Teen Deaths

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Advocacy Grows as Lawsuits Target Social Media After Teen Deaths

By Movieguide® Contributor

In the last two years, there have been “hundreds” of lawsuits from mournful parents against social media companies.

From across the country advocacy to bills and documentaries, families are desperate for a change.

“Jaime Puerta’s 16-year-old son Daniel died four years ago after taking a counterfeit oxycodone pill made with pure fentanyl, the illicit opioid drug, that he purchased from a dealer he found on Snapchat. In 2022, Puerta sued Snapchat in a wrongful death lawsuit. At the time, his lawsuit was one of the first to accuse social media of posing a danger to children’s health,” CNN reported April 13.

“Now there are hundreds of such lawsuits against social media platforms, alleging teenagers across the country have been harmed from exposure to social media, according to Matthew Bergman, the founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center, from where many of these lawsuits have been filed,” CNN said. “In some of the cases, families allege their children used social media to buy drugs; in other cases, parents say their teens saw dangerous content and harmed themselves. There is a range of harms and heartbreak alleged in the filings.”

Major companies like Meta, TikTok and Snapchat claim they prohibit harmful content and the sale of drugs.

Per CNN, the companies filed motions to dismiss many of the cases under the First Amendment and Section 230, claiming they can’t be held liable for what other users post. But some lawsuits, Puerta’s included, are approved and in process.

“All I am is a bereaved father who wants to make sure this doesn’t keep happening,” Puerta told CNN. “My son made a mistake [on social media], but it shouldn’t have cost him his life.”

“He said he has met with the Los Angeles police department, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Homeland Security and other government agencies to address the topic,” CNN said. “He also hosts student assemblies at high schools where he screens a short film that follows four families, including his own, who lost children to fentanyl-laced drugs purchased on social media platforms.”

Amy Neville, a mother whose 14-year-old son also died from a fentanyl pill sold through Snapchat, travels across the nation to show the documentary, too.

“I do this because it keeps me connected to Alexander and lets me talk about him,” she said. “It’s an overwhelming thought that it could happen to someone else. If I can do something to help them, I will.”

“She also founded the Alexander Neville Foundation, which offers resources about the problem, and started a course called the Parent Connections Academy in her local community to empower parents with more information about fentanyl. Neville said she has submitted a proposal to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to create a new national holiday in June called Social Media Victims Remembrance Day. Sen. Klobuchar did not immediately respond to a request for comment,” CNN said.

OWN TV host Dr. Laura Berman had a son the same age as Puerta’s, who also died after he bought a fentanyl drug through Snapchat.

Movieguide® reported in 2021:

Berman shared the tragic news via Instagram and warned parents of the dangers of how children use social media during COVID-19-related isolation.

“My heart is completely shattered and I am not sure how to keep breathing,” Berman said. “I post this now only so that not one more kid dies. We watched him so closely. Straight A student. Getting ready for college. Experimentation gone bad. He got the drugs delivered to the house.

“Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially. That’s how they get them,” Berman added. 

In February, Berman shared news clips about her son, Sammy Chapman, and other clips about people who died after they bought drugs through Snapchat.

She said:

“@offical_evanspiegel and Snapchat is actually trying gaslight viewers (and the lawmakers and the legal system) by releasing an ad during the Grammys trying to “rebrand” themselves as “not social media”! If it weren’t so horrific it would be hilarious. 🤯😂

So here’s what the REAL ad should be. Every one of these sweet angels are dead as a result of or because of Snapchat. Blood on their hands. So sorry Snap, you can’t manipulate and gaslight us. You are putting our children in danger, connecting them with dealers, pedophiles and dangerous content and you won’t let us protect our kids….. even though you could fix it alls tomorrow if you wanted to. But you don’t want to. Cause of $$$ it’s ok for kids to keep dying. At some point, if we have our way, you’ll have to change. In the meantime we will speak out again and again as you try to manipulate and gaslight the masses 😡. If you want to help go to SammysLaw.org to learn how to join us help parents to protect our kids! ️‍🩹

After Sammy’s death, Berman began to advocate for Sammy’s Law, named in honor of her son. It is also known as the Let Parents Choose Protection Act. It proposes allowing parents to have more control over their children’s social media interactions and is being introduced to Congress.

While Snap may still have some major work to do when it comes to drug sales, it recently made strides in its policies related to sexual abuse.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation reported on the changes last September:

Snapchat, an app which parents and child safety experts have consistently named as one of the most dangerous, has made numerous substantial safety changes as a direct result of being named to the 2023 Dirty Dozen List! NCOSE and our supporters have been pressing on Snapchat since 2016, and we are very grateful that they have now listened to our call and are taking significant steps to prioritize safety. 

The changes announced by Snapchat include improving detection and moderation for sexually explicit and exploitative content, defaulting content controls for new minor-aged accounts joining Family Center, increasing parent’s visibility into their child’s activity through Family Center, and creating dedicated resources on sexual abuse and exploitation. 

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Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.


4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.