Tester Leads Bill to Combat Fentanyl Trafficking, Reduce Cartel Recruitment Through Social Media

Senators’ Combating Cartels on Social Media Act would reduce the recruitment of Americans engaged in illicit activities for cartels via social media

In his continued push to secure the southern border and combat illicit fentanyl trafficking into the United States, U.S. Senator Jon Tester last week led the bipartisan Combating Cartels on Social Media Act to target cartels’ use of social media and online platforms to recruit smugglers. Tester’s bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) .

“The fentanyl crisis is a serious issue facing Montana communities,” said Tester. “Targeting the cartels’ recruitment tactics is one of the most effective ways to reduce illicit fentanyl trafficking and make sure these lethal drugs don’t make it across our southern border. This bill will make it harder for bad actors to use online platforms to grow their operations and prey on vulnerable social media users, and I’ll keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get it passed into law.”

Drug cartels are using social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to recruit American teenagers to transport migrants and drugs from Mexico, typically recruiting teenagers under the age of 18. This recruitment strategy is commonly used in regions along the southern border.

Tester’s bill aims to reduce cartels’ recruitment via social media by:

  • Requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to study which online platforms with messaging functions are being used for recruitment purposes.
  • Implementing the “National Strategy to Combat Illicit Recruitment Activity by Transitional Criminal Organizations on Social Media and Online Platforms,” which must recommend establishing a reporting mechanism, and improve coordination between DHS, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement, and platforms; increase engagement and outreach to American targets, especially those under 18.
  • Requiring DHS to create a voluntary process to receive, process, and share information involving cartels use of social media and online platforms for recruitment, and to provide other law enforcement agencies with intelligence to combat cartel activity. 

Tester has consistently led the charge to combat fentanyl trafficking in Montana and secure our nation’s borders. Last month, Tester introduced his bipartisan FEND Off Fentanyl Act to declare fentanyl trafficking a national emergency, increase sanctions against Chinese criminal organizations and Mexican drug cartels who traffic fentanyl into the U.S., and combat fentanyl-related money laundering.  

In March, Tester also pressed DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the Biden Administration’s plan to stop illicit drug trafficking during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Earlier that month, Tester called on the Biden Administration to make additional investments in technology to assist law enforcement in nonintrusive inspections at points of entry.

As the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester was instrumental in passing critical provisions in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act and the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget to stop fentanyl trafficking along the southern border.