Jun 3, 2020 - Technology

Snapchat will no longer promote Trump's account in Discover

President Trump waves to reporters outside the White House.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Snapchat will no longer promote President Trump's account on its "Discover" page of curated content, a spokesperson tells Axios, after Trump tweeted comments that some suggested glorified violence amid racial justice protests.

Why it matters: Snapchat is taking action on the president's account for comments he made elsewhere. That's going further than other Big Tech firms and signals a commitment to aligning content served to users with core values, rather than making moderation decisions based narrowly on each post made on its own platform.

What they're saying: “We are not currently promoting the President’s content on Snapchat’s Discover platform," a spokesperson for Snapchat parent Snap tells Axios. The company made the decision over the weekend.

  • "We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover," the spokesperson added.
  • "Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society, and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality and justice in America.”

Yes, but: This doesn’t mean Trump's account is being taken down. It will remain fully accessible to the public, so people who subscribe to his Snapchat account or search for his account will still be able to find his content.

Snapchat recently decided it will no longer promote accounts belonging to those who incite racial violence and injustice, even if done off of its platform.

  • In a memo posted online Sunday, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said, "Our Discover content platform is a curated platform, where we decide what we promote. We have spoken time and again about working hard to make a positive impact, and we will walk the talk with the content we promote on Snapchat."
  • He also noted that Snapchat "may continue to allow divisive people to maintain an account on Snapchat, as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines, but we will not promote that account or content in any way."

How it works: President Trump's account on Snapchat is "starred," which means it's been verified as belonging to someone of public interest.

  • In addition to appearing in the feeds of those who subscribe to them, starred accounts are also eligible for promotion on Discover, which Snapchat editors curate.

Between the lines: Snap makes decisions to promote and not promote different accounts on Discover all the time. Under existing policies, Snapchat weighs whether to leave accounts off Discover in part if an account has multiple violations of Snapchat's guidelines or lots of reports from users.

  • Making a promotion decision based on off-platform behavior is a departure from that approach. Snapchat has not yet indicated that the president has violated any of its policies on its platform.

In response to the decision, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement:

  • “Snapchat is trying to rig the 2020 election, illegally using their corporate funding to promote Joe Biden and suppress President Trump.  Radical Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel would rather promote extreme left riot videos and encourage their users to destroy America than share the positive words of unity, justice, and law and order from our President."
  • “Snapchat hates that so many of their users watch the President’s content and so they are actively engaging in voter suppression. If you’re a conservative, they do not want to hear from you, they do not want you to vote. They view you as a deplorable and they do not want you to exist on their platform.”

The big picture: Snapchat is now the second major internet company to take action on the president's account, following Twitter. Facebook is under intense pressure to take more action on Trump's posts.

  • Tech companies have broadly been taking more action on content from world leaders and policymakers, as the coronavirus pandemic and global protests have heightened the stakes of misinformation and inflammatory language.

Be smart: The decision aligns with Snapchat's more editorially focused curation approach.

  • The company fact-checks ads, while Facebook and Google do not.
  • Its platform is also not designed to promote viral content, but rather content that's custom-tailored to a user's preferences or is curated by Snapchat's editors.
  • Snapchat is private by default, and it isn't designed so that anyone can speak publicly to the entire Snapchat community. 
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