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Courtesy: Snapchat

Snapchat Monday launched Spotlight, a video tab within its app that, like TikTok, distributes videos based more on how popular they are than on who created them.

Of note: In an effort to lure users to try the new feature, Snapchat says it will give away $1 million total to the creators of the top-performing videos on Spotlight each day for the remainder of 2020, and potentially beyond.

Why it matters: TikTok's explosive growth has put dominant American social media platforms on notice. In August, Facebook launched its TikTok competitor, called Reels. Several other apps, like Byte, Dubsmash and Triller, are trying to win over TikTok users with similar products.

Details: Beginning Monday, users in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France will be able to see and submit videos to Spotlight, which will exist in a tab on the right side of their Snapchat home screen.

  • Anyone can upload a video to Spotlight, but videos will only be visible to users' friends unless they specifically set them to be public (and eligible for the reward).
  • The Spotlight algorithm works by surfacing the most engaging Snaps based on a users' personal preferences, including whether a user has positively or negatively engaged with similar content.
  • It's built to avoid monotony by surfacing different types of videos, regardless of whether a user has engaged with them, that are intentionally inclusive of different types of content and creators.
  • Each video gets distributed to at least 100 viewers. Those that get the highest engagement get elevated to the next distribution tier of 1000 views. The tournament-style algorithm means that every piece of content is treated equally by Snapchat's distribution algorithm at the start.
  • Snapchat will moderate all videos within their first 100 views. That initial review process includes both humans and software. All videos must adhere to Snapchat's existing community guidelines and content rules.

The $1 million cash prize is designed to reward creativity among a diverse set of users. To qualify, users must be 16 or older, and where applicable, obtain parental consent to earn the money. Snapchat says it will actively monitor for fraud and make sure the winners are original work.

  • A spokesperson says that every piece of original content will be digitally watermarked to make sure that only the original creators can win the reward. The $1 million can be spread amongst multiple creators in a day.
  • Snapchat isn’t alone in incentivizing creators with cash. In July, TikTok announced a $200 million creator fund that it says will grow to over $1 billion in the U.S. in the next 3 years.
  • Facebook’s Instagram has also paid to lure TikTok creators to its platform.

Be smart: Snapchat realized it had to create something like Spotlight when it saw users creating videos with the Snap camera and then putting them on other platforms that had this type of algorithm.

  • More than 4 billion videos are taken using Snapchat's camera on average daily, and those videos and pictures are often cross-posted elsewhere.

Between the lines: Snapchat already has video tabs, but they serve separate functions, and Spotlight won't replace them.

  • Users will still be able to upload videos to Snapchat's Our Stories tab to get them featured on Snapchat's Snap Map, which features content about places and events. For example, first responders have in the past looked to Our Stories to find videos of people trapped in buildings during disasters.
  • Users will also still be able to upload content to My Stories to be able to share videos privately with friends who follow them.
  • Snapchat's curated video section, Discover, which features professional-grade content, will also remain. In the future, a Snapchat spokesperson says it does plan to integrate premium content into Spotlight.

Snapchat has two big ways to differentiate Spotlight from TikTok.

  • Spotlight is private by default, and doesn't include public comments — both unlike TikTok. These choices align Spotlight with Snapchat's emphasis on privacy and positive incentives for creators.
  • Snapchat also hopes Spotlight will help its users leverage its augmented reality tools, like 3D filters. These features have always been Snapchat's strong suit.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech is outsourcing its hardest content moderation decisions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Faced with the increasingly daunting task of consistent content moderation at scale, Big Tech companies are tossing their hardest decisions to outsiders, hoping to deflect some of the pressure they face for how they govern their platforms.

Why it matters: Every policy change, enforcement action or lack thereof prompts accusations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are making politically motivated decisions to either be too lax or too harsh. Ceding responsibility to others outside the company may be the future of content moderation if it works.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Capitol riot lawsuit

Rep. Mo Brooks during a June news conference on Capitol Hill. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

Team USA's Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the final of the women's 1,500m freestyle swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky took home the Olympic gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle swimming race Tuesday evening, becoming the first female swimmer to win the newly added division. Team USA's Erica Sullivan won silver.

Of note: The Tokyo Games mark the first time that the long-distance race has been open to women, and Ledecky paid tribute to her predecessors after the race. "I just think of all the great U.S. swimmers who didn’t have a chance to swim that event," she said on NBC.