July 27, 2016

Snapchat “Discover” is Not Safe For Work or Children

[Trigger Warning: titles of explicit and offensive articles found on Snapchat Discover are included in this blog.]

Snapchat rates itself as appropriate for ages 12+ for infrequent mild sexual content and nudity, and for infrequent mild mature suggestive themes. But, I’m not sure if Snapchat knows the meaning of the words “infrequent” and “mild.”

I am not alone in my concerns. Snapchat is currently being sued by an anonymous 14-year-old who found sexually explicit content in Snapchat Discover. Mark Geragos’ firm, prominent in media law, is leading the class action suit.

“Specifically, through Snapchat Discover, Snapchat is currently engaged in an insidious pattern and practice of intentionally exposing minors to harmful, offensive, prurient, and sexually offensive content, without warning minors or their parents that they would be exposed to such explicit content,” says the complaint against Snapchat. The complaint continues to list examples of sexually explicit content found on Snapchat Discover.

Snapchat’s “Discover” includes articles and content from top media sources adapted to Snapchat’s platform which appear as icons that can be selected from the top of Snapchat’s Stories page. Some of the first companies whose content shows up in Discover include Cosmopolitan, MTV, Buzzfeed, and Vice. Their Discover stories frequently exhibit sexual content.

In just one day, Cosmo’s Snapchat Discover included “5 Vagina Mistakes Women Make in the Sumer,” “Would you participate in the ‘Panty Challenge?’” “12 Things Women Wish Guys Knew About Oral Sex,” and “Inside a Hamptons Sex Party for the Elite.” I wouldn’t call 4 sex-centered stories out of the 12 posted that day infrequent. And I wouldn’t call a detailed description of oral sex “mild sexual content.” In addition, at the end of Cosmo’s story it blatantly proves the explicit and frequent nature of the content when it says, “Swipe up for daily sex tips, horoscopes, and more.”

On June 7th, MTV’s entire Snapchat Discover section was focused on sexting. Every article was sexually explicit.

Below is a list of a few of the sexually centered articles available through Snapchat’s Discover section just in June 2016:

  • 24 times celebrities’ nipples wanted all the attention (Cosmo 6/7/16)
  • 10 things he thinks about your vagina (Cosmo 6/7/16)
  • 3 cautionary tales from the teen sex vault (MTV 6/7/16)
  • A graceful and proper chat regarding a giant d*ck (MTV 6/7/16)
  • Sexting takeover Tuesday: very, very famous junk; sexting teens get in trouble; celebrity sexts (MTV 6/7/16)
  • Swipe up to see what to sext to bae: “If I was a watermelon would you spit or swallow my seed?” (MTV 6/7/16)
  • Celebs show you how to send the dirtiest sext with emojis (MTV 6/7/16)
  • Snapchat gives you the sext talk (MTV 6/7/16)
  • What he says after sex vs. what he means: What porn sites have you been hitting up (Cosmo 6/8/16)
  • 21 sex confessions you can’t unsee (People 6/29/16)
  • 10 things your vagina wants you to know (Cosmo 6/29/16)
  • We asked people about the time they were walked in on during sex (Vice 9/29)
  • I tried a female condom and it was interesting… (Cosmo 6/30/16)
  • 17 people confess their super awkward first-time sex stories (People 6/30/16)
  • 14 totally NSFW facts about life (People 6/30/16
  • Splitting chores will get you laid (Vice 6/30/16)
  • Thailand’s giant penis is a shrine to a female fertility spirit (Vice 6/30/16)

This content is available for 12 year olds, and anyone with the Snapchat app no matter their age, with no warnings attached at all.

Many of the articles say that they are “NSFW,” meaning not safe for work. For example, on June 29th, People posted an article titled, “21 sex confessions you can’t unsee.” The article consisted of explicit stories of sex and random hook-ups gone wrong. People labeled its own article NSFW as some sort of warning to only read it in privacy. If it isn’t “safe” or appropriate for a work environment, it isn’t appropriate for 12 year old children.

Additionally, while I was scrolling through one of the Discover stories, an ad for a movie popped up with the words, “Warning NSFW Trailer.” While this ad popped up in the Discover section, Snapchat recently started putting ads in the Stories section where pictures and videos from friends are posted. So even if children avoid the Discover section, NSFW ads can pop-up while they watch their friends’ stories. NSFW content on Snapchat should be relabeled NSFC—not safe for children.

Without a doubt, Snapchat needs to take another look at its user policy, and clean up the app so it is actually suitable for children ages 12 and up.

Snapchat is on NCOSE’s 2016 Dirty Dozen list because it is frequently used for sexting and sharing child sexual abuse images, and because Snapcash enables users to monetize and profit from the exchange of sexual content. We are calling on Snapchat to stop promoting and profiting from sexually explicit content. Please join us by sending this email to Snapchat executives today.

Emily Sopp

Intern

Emily Sopp is a communications intern at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She is currently studying public relations and editing at Brigham Young University and plans to graduate in December 2016. She is excited to spend the summer contributing to NCOSE’s work. In her free time, Emily enjoys reading and searching out the best food in a new area. It is her dream to travel the world and learn about new cultures.

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