While Facebook holds firm on its decision to let controversial comments from US President Donald Trump remain on its platform, Snapchat has taken the extraordinary step of demoting Trump's account based on comments he's made on other networks.
As reported by The Verge, Snapchat has announced that it will stop promoting Trump's profile, which has more than 1.5 million followers, within its Discover platform, where it seeks to showcase news publishers, elected officials and other celebrities.
As per Snap:
"We are not currently promoting the president’s content on Snapchat’s Discover platform. We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. 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.”
The specific comments Snapchat has taken issue with are these two posts (from Facebook) in which Trump effectively threatens violence against those calling for action to address racial injustice in the country.
And while Snapchat will still let Trump post, and will not penalize his account directly, the removal of his account from its Discover surface will significantly reduce his reach. According to Bloomberg, Trump's following on Snapchat has more than tripled over the past twelve months, with a significant portion of those followers coming direct from Discover promotion.
The move is the latest in the ongoing stand-off between President Trump and social media platforms more broadly. The latest confrontation began last Tuesday, when Twitter decided to add warning labels to two of Trump's tweets regarding mail-in ballots, suggesting that they could potentially mislead voters and reduce participation. That lead to Trump issuing an Executive Order, calling for a review of Section 230 laws which protect social media platforms from liability over what users post.
If Section 230 laws are changed, that will impact all platforms equally, which, in effect, means that in taking this step, Trump has broadened the action to all social media companies, leading to this next stage of the debate. The #BlackLiveMatter protests, and Trump's comments on them, have then further exacerbated the stand-off, which has forced each platform to assess what they will allow, and what they won't, even from the US President.
Snap has taken a strong stance in support of the #BlackLivesMatter protests, with CEO Evan Spiegel publishing a detailed overview of the varying forms of racial injustice in the US, and offering potential ways in which systems can be changed to improve the situation.
As per Spiegel:
"For nearly 30 years I have personally witnessed or participated in the passionate and persistent, well-reasoned, and forceful appeal for justice in America and around the world. 30 years later, despite a chorus of millions calling for change, there is little to show in the way of progress. Economic inequality in America has reached levels unseen for nearly a century, people of color cannot visit a grocery store or go for a jog without fear of being murdered without consequence, and put simply, the American experiment is failing."
Among Spiegel's suggestions for how things can be improved, Spiegel notes that, on Snapchat specifically, it will be taking stronger measures to reduce the promotion of those who share divisive views.
"We simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform. 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."
The fact that Snapchat is taking into account actions or statements made on other platforms is an extraordinary step, and could prompt more politicians to be increasingly mindful of what they post - or the risk could be that they lose promotional capacity on two networks at once.
At the time of publishing, The White House has not responded to Snap's action, but you can bet that it will add more to the Trump administration's view that social platforms, in general, are biased against conservative views. In fact, Trump was already considering the establishment of a new commission to investigate social media platforms over alleged bias before Twitter took its initial action, so moves like this will only add more fuel to the fire - though given the proximity to the 2020 US Election, the Trump vs. social media stand-off could be coming at a crucial time, and could have a significant impact on the campaign moving forward.
UPDATE: Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale has posted this response to Snapchat's action:
"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."