January 25, 2017

Victory! Snapchat Improved its Policy on Graphic, Risqué Stories

Snapchat stories are finally starting to listen to its concerned users.

This Monday Snapchat updated its guidelines for Discover publishers to discourage click bait. It announced that Snapchat will give publishers a tool in February that allows them to age-gate content, or stop minors from seeing specific content.

Snapchat Discover is a section of that app where magazines, newspapers, and TV outlets can publish content specifically created for Snapchat. These posts feature pictures and headlines to preview the stories, which can be read or watched within the app itself.

To date there has been no way to opt-out of specific publishers, or to remove stories that feature graphic sexual headlines or photographs.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) declares this change a victory for those advocating for a safer Snapchat environment. NCOSE also calls on Snapchat to take further action.

Snapchat’s decision to enable publisher age-filtering comes after significant pressure from its users.

This is a victory for the thousands of individuals who have taken action through NCOSE’s Dirty Dozen List. Snapchat is listed on this Dirty Dozen List as a mainstream facilitator of sexual exploitation. It is also a victory for other activism campaigns that call for Snapchat to take responsibility for creating a safe user environment.

It’s encouraging that Snapchat has made this policy improvement, but there is much more work for Snapchat to do. For instance, we ask that Snapchat mandate that publishers shield minors from sexually graphic stories. We also ask that Snapchat institute improved reporting processes for users to report accounts sending sexually explicit images within the app. (We set up a simple action so you can email Snapchat executives and ask them to implement these improvements.)

Snapchat is a member of NCOSE’s Dirty Dozen List because its business model facilitates sexting, the sharing of self-produced child sexual abuse images (i.e. child pornography.) Further, it profits from online prostitution and monetized nude images via the built-in feature Snapcash.

A class-action lawsuit has even been brought against Snapchat due to these Discover stories. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 14-year old boy from Los Angeles who was exposed to story titles too graphic to reprint here.

The lawsuit stated:

“Millions of parents in the United States today are unaware that Snapchat is curating and publishing this profoundly sexual and offensive content to their children,”

Other prominent campaigns against Snapchat include one Millennial’s petition to allow users to opt-out of sexually graphic Discover stories. This petition received over 20,000 signatures in one week.

Snapchat can take a stand against sexual exploitation if it makes simple improvements to reporting systems. It can also establish robust monitoring of Discover and featured stories.

In order to learn more, and to email Snapchat executives to ask them to improve reporting systems, visit here: http://endsexualexploitation.org/snapchat/

Haley McNamara (Halverson)

Vice President and Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation

Haley McNamara (formerly Halverson) is the Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation in the UK, and a Vice President at the U.S. based National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She leads international efforts and joint campaigns to improve policies and education among global governing bodies, citizenry, and corporations regarding the full web of sexual exploitation issues. Her advocacy work has contributed to policy improvements in social media, online advertising, retail, and hotel industries. She has advocated at the United Nations, led international coalition campaigns, presented to Danish, Croatian, Colombian and Rwandan government officials, and more

She is a former member of the Washington DC Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. This Committee advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on the multi-faceted continuum of the District of Columbia’s child welfare services, including prevention, early intervention, treatment, and sources of permanency.

Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, the exploitation of males, and more. She has presented before officials at the United Nations, as well as at several national symposia before influencers from the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Croatian government officials. She has provided training to Arlington County Child & Family Services on the social media grooming, recruitment, and advertising for sex trafficking. She has a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University where she received honors for her thesis regarding the online commercial sexual exploitation marketplace.

Previously, Haley served for two years as Director of Communications for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation where she oversaw strategic messaging development, press outreach, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Prior to working at NCOSE, Haley wrote for a cultural media outlet. Haley graduated from Hillsdale College (summa cum laude) with a double major, and conducted a senior thesis on the abolitionist argument regarding prostitution. During her studies, she studied abroad at Oxford University and established a background in policy research through several internships in the DC area.

Haley has appeared on, or been quoted in, several outlets including the New York Times, NBC’s The Today Show, BBC News, New York Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Fox News, San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, Voice of America, Dr. Drew Midday Live, The DeMaio Report, the New York Daily News, the Washington Examiner, USA Radio Network, the Washington Times, CBC News, The Rod Arquette Show, The Detroit News, Lifezette, The Christian Post, Lifeline with Neil Boron, EWTN News Nightly, KCBS San Francisco Radio, LifeSiteNews, The Drew Mariano Show on Relevant Radio, News Talk KGVO, and American Family News.

She has written op-eds for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, FoxNews.com, Washington Examiner, Townhall.com, Darling Magazine, the Daytona-Beach News Journal, and has been published in the Journal of Internet Law and the journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and ViolenceShe has also contributed to a digital middle school curriculum regarding the links between sex trafficking and pornography as well as the public health impacts of sex trafficking.

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