Snapchat announced Monday that it would be updating its standards for publishers in a bid to reduce clickbait on its news page, Snapchat Discover. Publishers are restricted from posting content that does not have news or editorial value, which essentially means that they are not allowed to use risqué or misleading images to entice users to view their content. In addition, Snapchat reiterated its stance on fake news, clarifying rules that prevent publishers from posting any links to websites or reports that could be defined as fake news.
Getting in IPO-shape
As has been pointed out, Snap’s move has been part of its strategic shift in the lead-up to its IPO to differentiate itself from its major competitors and underscore its profitability. By imposing stricter guidelines for Snapchat Discover, Snapchat is demonstrating its ability to combat the fake news problem plaguing Facebook and Twitter, while also reassuring would-be advertisers.
It also, as the New York Times notes, underscores the similarities between Snapchat and other traditional media channels. Steven Kydd, a founder of Tastemade, said, “This is cable all over again, except for a mobile and global audience.” Snap essentially has the ability to curate the content that appears on its platform — like traditional television companies. The stricter guidelines for Snapchat Discover create standards of decency that Snap will be able to enforce, and Snap also has plans to roll out a tool that will prevent those under a certain age from being able to access certain content.
That being said, these stricter standards are meant only for the content produced by newer as well as established media brands for the Discover page. They do not apply to content created by users of the platform. In this way, Snapchat has achieved a tricky balance between free speech and regulation by recognizing that certain types of information are more likely to be taken seriously, and should be subject to certain rules.
More than just a social media network
Unlike Facebook, Snap has embraced its role as a media company, inviting publishers to produce content but also ensuring that their content is held to a high journalistic standard. Facebook could learn from Snap’s example and implement stricter rules for content that is not native to the platform; or, alternatively, it could invite publishers to create content specifically for Facebook that adheres to certain journalistic standards.
It remains to be seen whether these features will be actively enforced, or if they will be allowed to fall by the wayside in the aftermath of Snap’s IPO. Nevertheless, by creating stricter guidelines for Snapchat Discover, Snap has made an important statement about the role that social platforms should play in the combating of fake news. In all likelihood, other social media platforms will need to follow its lead.