RECAP: McMorris Rodgers Hosts Roundtable on Big Tech and the Fentanyl Crisis, Spokane Sheriff Testifies

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today led Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans in hosting a roundtable discussion on Big Tech platforms’ devastating role in the worsening fentanyl crisis. Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels joined the panel to share how this deadly drug is threatening individuals and families in Eastern Washington.

Highlights and excerpts from today’s roundtable are below:

Rodgers Opening Statement

“Big Tech companies have failed to be good stewards of their platforms. We’ve seen numerous reports detailing how Big Tech encourages addictive behaviors in our children to keep them glued to their screens and fails to protect their users from malicious actors on their platforms, like drug dealers targeting vulnerable populations with counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl and fentanyl related substances.

“Every day, more Americans die from illicit fentanyl poisoning – an estimated 200 a day. Today, children are dying from fentanyl poisoning. These deaths can be prevented. They must be prevented.

“While we recognize that many social media platforms have engaged in education campaigns to combat the use of lethal drugs, it is not enough. We must take an all-hands-on deck approach to preventing the sale and transfer of these illegal drugs on these platforms to prevent one more child from dying.

“Today, I’m thankful that we have a group of panelists who can help us understand the challenges of attacking the fentanyl crisis. 

“These are not easy conversations to have, but they are necessary to raise awareness and end preventable deaths of our fellow Americans and our children. We have a great opportunity to address these issues this Congress, and I look forward to working with all of you.”

Nowels on Spokane’s Fentanyl Surge

“From 2017 to 2021, the Spokane Field Office for the Drug Enforcement Agency reported a 1,098 percent increase in fentanyl seizures. During the same time period in Spokane County, we saw 1,233 percent increase in fentanyl overdose deaths.

“Between 2020 and 2021, Spokane County saw a 186 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths, and we expect at least another 100 percent increase in 2022.

“All of the people we arrest for dealing mid to upper level narcotics are dealing fentanyl. They may be dealing other drugs primarily … but they all distribute fentanyl as well. We are also finding that fentanyl is laced into almost all drugs that are being sold illicitly on the street.

“Social media and electronic communication are a significant tool that our drug traffickers are using to impact our communities negatively. We have had to make significant investment in law enforcement to keep up with technology.

“We are finding as time goes on that there are more and more online ways to communicate and distribute drugs than we can even keep up with.

“We need help to combat this. Our drug dealers are all-too-often allowed to operate in secrecy. This is a significant issue in every community in this country. We need help to hold people accountable who are poisoning our children.”

Nowels on Tech Platforms Hiding Data

“Some providers … pride themselves on the fact that they are not storing data. That’s how they advertise themselves to users: we’re not going to store the data, and if police come looking for it, we will not provide the data.

“These companies are doing businesses intentionally … to prevent law enforcement from being able to recover evidence.”

Nowels on Stopping Fentanyl at the Border

“We have to do something about the flow of illicit fentanyl into this country. I think it’s a well-established fact that most of the fentanyl that we see in the United States is coming from China through the Mexican cartels and brought in that way.

“We are not doing enough to stop the flow of fentanyl into our country. We are facing such a threat – and that most American families are being touched by fentanyl in some way very negatively – that I think we should revisit harsher punishments for people who are distributing fentanyl in the United States.

“We have to be serious and make significant penalties for people who will distribute this drugs in our communities.”

CLICK HERE to watch the full roundtable.

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