Snapchat is consistently ranked as the most popular social media apps among US teens: roughly two thirds of 13–17 year-olds online using Snapchat and 34% of US teens naming it as their most important social network in a fall 2020 survey.
Unfortunately, this platform that boasts 265 million daily active users has been used by sex traffickers and predators to groom, abuse, and sell people, including children. Experts and law enforcement have witnessed a rise in Snapchat being used for sextortion. Children as young as 13 are left vulnerable to sextortion, grooming for abuse, exposure to pornography, and even being sex trafficked through Snapchat accounts that function as pornographic advertisements to sex buyers.
Snapchat’s made improvements recently, but it can still do much more to protect minors.
Learn more and act below!
Critical Safety Measures
Snapchat is slowly rolling out critical safety measures to curb predatory targeting, grooming, sex trafficking, and pornography exposure abuse on its platform. While we cannot share details at this time because of Non-Disclosure Agreements—we are encouraged by their plans.2020
In-App Reporting & Discontinued Snapcash
Snapchat enabled in-app reporting so that users can finally report abusive and sexually explicit behavior. Snapchat also discontinued Snapcash—which was being used to buy and sell pornographic images and videos, often acting as advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking. These were key requests when Snapchat was placed on the 2018 Dirty Dozen List.2018
Snapchat Improved Its Policy on Graphic, Risqué Stories
Snapchat updated its guidelines for Discover publishers to discourage clickbait. It announced that Snapchat will give publishers a tool that allows them to age-gate content, or stop minors from seeing specific content.2018
WHAT IS SNAPCHAT?
Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send and receive photos and videos, which will disappear after a few seconds of the recipient viewing them. Photos and videos taken with the app are called Snaps. Users can also share Stories. Stories string Snaps together to create a narrative that lasts for 24 hours. To create a Story, a user chooses to add their Snaps to their Story. Depending on their privacy settings, the photos and videos added to a Story can be viewed by either all Snapchatters, just the user’s friends, or a customized group, whereas Snaps are viewed only by a user who is personally sent the Snap from the sender.
Here, here, and here are simple explanations for how Snapchat works. We especially encourage parents to learn more about this app in order to help prepare kids with digital safety guidelines. We also encourage parents to understand the tools their kids are using and to use these tools together with their kids. Visit the NCOSE Resource Center for Parents.
We recognize that Snapchat has made recent improvements to limit the excessive amount of sexually graphic material available to young users on Discover by implementing a “cold start” feature (type of content shown is based on birthday entered when creating an account), allowing Discover publishers to age-gate content, and providing users the option to delete specific Discover publishers. While we are still finding hypersexualized stories and the promotion of risky sexual behavior (e.g., polyamorous relationships) the amount has reduced substantially since earlier this fall.
Snapchat also defaulted several safety settings for minors when accounts are set up – especially setting “Contact Me” to “My Friends” and turning on Ghost Mode. Given the significant percentage of Snapchat’s users that are minors, these changes have the potential to improve the well-being and safety of millions of youth – both in the immediate and long-term.
Snapchat also discontinued Snapcash—which was being used to buy and sell pornographic images and videos, often acting as advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking. The removal of Snapcash, and the creation of in-app reporting, were some of the key requests we made when Snapchat was placed on the 2018 Dirty Dozen List.
Further, in NCOSE’s letter sent to Snapchat in January of 2018, we requested that Snapchat “provide prominent in-app reporting systems for users to report other users that send or promote sexually exploitive content.” We’re glad to see that Snapchat has followed up on this request and that there are now ways to report individual snaps for containing “nudity or sexual content” along with other report topics (though again, reporting options could still be expanded; for example, to include sextortion). Snapchat has also updated its Safety Center with information about how to report harmful content and about tips to stay safe.
WHY IS SNAPCHAT ON THE WATCHLIST?
Unfortunately, despite recent improvements, we still hear from other online safety experts, the survivors with whom we work, and from many concerned families that Snapchat continues to be frequently used to sexually exploit and objectify individuals, serve as a method for sextortion and sexting, and is still used by sex traffickers as a tool to sell children and adults for sex. Snapchat’s response is insufficient both in scope and urgency given the immense harm the platform is facilitating.
Given the incredible popularity of Snapchat among teens, Snap Inc. has a serious social obligation to prioritize creating a safe environment for youth. In today’s culture, where sexual harassment and assault are rampant (and growing rapidly during COVID-19), corporations such as Snapchat have a renewed responsibility to refrain from normalizing or promoting material that promotes sexual exploitation.
We request the following improvements:
- Create pin-protected parental controls that can’t be changed by a minor
- Turn off “See Me in Quick Add” feature as the default for minors
- Block the ability to change a birthday once an account is created
- Remove and block accounts posting and promoting pornographic content with greater efficiency and proactive measures
- Add the ability for all users, particularly parents and guardians of minors, to completely hide the Stories and/or Discover sections (or at the very least create a method to block certain content across the platform, rather than having to “hide” individual stories or publishers)
- Update your Parent’s Guide and Community Guidelines to include information about the extensive risks on Snapchat, especially predatory or illegal behavior (sextortion, sexting, grooming, etc.)
- Adjust Apple App rating from 12+ to 17+ and Google Play from “Teen” to “Mature” to more accurately warn potential users – especially parents and guardians of minors – of the extensive risks on Snapchat
WARNING: Any pornographic images have been blurred, but are still suggestive. There may also be graphic text descriptions shown in these sections.
Sexualized Stories Visible to Children
*Warning: these images are hypersexualized, objectifying, and unedited.
While Snapchat made it possible Discover publishers to age-gate certain content, Snapchat has not required Discover publishers to be accountable for the messages they send underage audiences. This inappropriately puts the onus of responsibility on children.
News reports indicated that Snapchat issued guidelines to publishers that include restrictions on profanity, sexualized content, sex acts, and sex toys in tiles, as well as repeated use of clothed but sexualized bodies.
Unfortunately, Snapchat’s policy leaves publishers, which include the likes of Cosmopolitan, Brother, The Daily Mail, MTV, and Comedy Central (some of the worst offenders for piping a steady stream of hyper-sexualized, pornified content), to be the arbiters of what constitutes restricted content.
As a result of lack of oversight or strict requirements, Discover publishers are shirking their responsibility to age-gate such content. Children as young as 13 years old are being exposed to Discover stories with sexualized content, explicit descriptions of sex acts, repeated hypersexualized images, and more, despite Snapchat’s aforementioned guidelines.
For example, a 13-year-old user is exposed to content in Discover such as the below stories:
February 15, 2018
February 9, 2018
Sexting and Prostitution
*Trigger Warning- the below proof has been edited but it still contains sexualized imagery and may be disturbing to sensitive viewers.
Pornography is Being Used to Advertise for Sex Trafficking and Prostitution on Snapchat
Tragically, several cases (2016 and 2017 and 2018) of sex trafficking have been linked to sexual predators lurking on Snapchat. This is yet another indicator of the links between Snapchat and sexual harm.
It is an accepted fact, supported by survivors of sex trafficking, that pornographic pictures and videos are used to advertise for both sex trafficking and prostitution victims (including minors.) Further, law enforcement is finding that many sex trafficking victims and child sexual abuse imagery (i.e. child pornography) victims, are coerced into creating livestream or webcam pornography as well.
Accounts posting and selling pornographic content, from images to videos to livestreams, and even requests for sugar baby/mommy dates, are undeniably flourishing on Snapchat.
It has been documented by law enforcement that pimps and sex traffickers often either coerce trafficking or child abuse victims into making such advertising posts, or the pimp and sex trafficker creates the posts themselves in their victim’s name. This is what was found to happen on Backpage.com—the notorious classifieds ads website that was recently shut down by the Department of Justice for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking ads.
As long as the Snapchat platform fails to proactively remove accounts posting pornography, and failing to remove ads for sex acts (whether recorded, live streamed, or in person) it is impossible to distinguish between those that are allegedly willingly distributing pornographic content and those whose pages are being managed by a sex trafficker or pimp.
February 2021 Proof of Pornography on Snapchat
There are numerous lists and websites across the internet that guide Snapchat users to find accounts that post pornography.
One such website helps Snapchat users subscribe to private Snapchat accounts that post pornography:
Another such website writes:
“Naked girls on Snapchat are becoming far more common…
Porn Snapchat Accounts
Some of the best Snapchat porn on the internet are from porn stars. We have an exclusive list of the hottest porn stars that send out Snapchat nudes and they’re available for anyone to add. You can find out if your favorite porn star has their own Snapchat account and receive messages from them…
Amateur Snapchat Accounts
Not everyone’s into porn stars though, we get it. Some people prefer amateur girls who have nothing to do with the industry. Some of the best snapchat nudes are just the regular typical girl that you would run into every day. If you’re bored and tired of watching porn, then maybe you need a breath of fresh air and enjoy some amateur Snapchat porn...
There are thousands and thousands of porn snapchat accounts, so unless you’re planning on adding a ton of accounts, find out what kind of kink or fetish you’re into and search specifically for those…
Some girls don’t show off their bodies for free and there are some naked girls on Snapchat that only give out their account to subscribers or customers. Some live streamers, for example, have exclusive Patreon accounts where only their highest paying members get access to their Patreon."
Pornography performers often post nudes or ads for their pornographic videos on Snapchat, including links for users to see more. These are all visible by children using Snapchat.
Example of a pornography performer Snapchat user advertising for a private Snapchat account for pornography, and live links to a pornography website.
Screenshots from Google for Snapchat Sexting Forums
Screenshots from Twitter & Instagram that Use the Hashtag #Snapcash or #Snapgirls
Many have taken to Twitter and Instagram and post explicit and suggestive pictures and short videos explaining that if a follower adds them on Snapchat and sends Snapcash, that they will send more sexually explicit material in exchange.
Twitter: December 2017 and January 2018
Twitter: February 2017
Instagram: February 2017
When checking Instagram for the hashtag #snapcash on February 17, 2016, there were 7,552 posts, nearly all of them advertising for the exchange of snapcash for nude pictures and video.
Screenshots of Discussion Forums on Reddit
Popular threads Snapcash, DirtySnapchat, and Snapchat Whores regularly post links to Snapchat accounts that are posting pornographic images and explain that many will give you more images in exchange for "donations" via Snapcash. Some threads also discuss how to entice young girls to send nude or explicit pictures by offering Snapcash in exchange. A common point made on many discussion threads by frequent users of Snapchat is that the development of Snapcash is just a way to monetize the nude pictures exchanged in large quantities through the texting app.
More Screenshots of Tweets Asking for Snapcash in Exchange for Pornographic Pictures [Note: Snapchat has since removed the Snapcash feature.]
Like Instagram, many are posting explicit and even pornographic pictures and videos on Twitter urging followers to find them on Snapchat to send them Snapcash in exchange for more pornographic material.
January 10, 2018
Story about child pornography of 13-year olds being shared via Snapchat
Police officer allegedly used Snapchat to groom 15-year-old girl into sending sexually explicit images.
Feb. 5, 2015
Article from the porn industry saying that snapcash will not be the currency of the porn industry because it requires that you use your own name and info.
Feb. 25, 2015
Snapchat seems to be enforcing its own rules and shutting down accounts abusing Snapcash
Jul 31, 2015
Reddit group with 25,000 subscribers that allows for people to find age-appropriate partners to sext with on Snapchat
Dec 5, 2014
Snapcash has created a “new business sector for amateur porn artists and those who want to enter into the porn industry.”
Nov. 17, 2014
Claims that snapcash turns snapchat into a “legitimate messaging platform” for “amateur porn subculture.” Quotes a performer who says that Snapchat isn’t secure and people don’t want to use their own name
Nov. 21, 2014
Snapcash allows for adult performers to cut out the middleman and make money directly from their fans.
Nov. 24, 2014
Porn star gives snapcash thumbs up. Also, mentions how advertisements are all over reddit
Nov. 24, 2014
The advent of micropayment system that allows users to get paid in cash for their amateur porn efforts
May 28, 2014
Emails from Snapchat CEO that depict a horrible view of women
May 12, 2012
Co-Founder jokes that Snapchat isn’t about sexting- says that it makes communication more human.
Dec. 7, 2012
Spiegel defends the app by saying that people aren’t sending risque pictures because most photos are sent during the day and people can’t upload from their gallery.
At the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, we’re incredibly busy defending dignity each and every day. For example, we’re currently preparing for the launch of our 2019 Dirty Dozen list on February 11th at 11am Eastern. We hope you’ll join us! We’re so busy that there’s three major victories we
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