Umberg act to prevent social media drug sales becomes law

Sen. Thomas Umberg, Courtesy photo

Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) announced that his Senate Bill 60, which would authorize a person to seek a court order requiring a social media platform to remove content pertaining to the sale of illegal drugs, was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday evening.

“The scourge of fentanyl is unlike anything this county has ever seen before,” said Senator Umberg, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The Governor has taken strong executive action on this matter, but it’s time for the Legislature to do our job and provide him, the Attorney General, our local district attorneys, and families alike with the tools to be able to hold drug dealers accountable for this crisis. SB 60 is a small but important first step in that process.”
The drug overdose epidemic has continued to worsen in the United States over the last several years as synthetic opioids, particularly illicit fentanyl, enter the market. No longer confined to street corners and the dark web, criminal drug networks are now in every home and school in America because of the internet apps on our smartphones.

Of specific concern is the primary method through which many individuals, especially teenagers, unlawfully purchase illicit fentanyl and other controlled substances—social media. Drug traffickers solicit customers via social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. In many cases, traffickers and buyers alike use social media features such as temporary or disappearing posts that help conceal their activities.

Illicit drugs offered on these social media sites can include methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl. In addition, fentanyl and other drugs are often falsely marketed as legitimate prescription pills but instead are counterfeit pills that were illicitly manufactured and are illegally distributed.

SB 60 allows any entity – prosecutors, city attorneys, organizations and even individuals – to take private legal action against social media companies who fail to remove drug content in a timely manner.

“As a society we bear a collective responsibility to care for our citizens,” continued Senator Umberg. “This new law is one means by which we can stop drug traffickers from using social media to distribute drugs and prevent unintentional overdoses. I fully intend to join my Senate colleagues in returning next year with a package of measures to provide our law enforcement agencies and judicial system with some additional tools in this battle.”
SB 60 was signed into law on October 10, 2023 as Chapter 697 of the Statutes of 2023. Its provisions will take effect on January 1, 2024.