Families Of Overdose Victims Demand Action From Social Media Platforms

A young person holds a sign as people opposed to the sale of illegal drugs on Snapchat participate in a rally outside the company’s headquarters to call for tighter restrictions on the popular social media app following fatal overdoses of the powerful opioid fentanyl in Santa Monica, California, June 13, 2022. (Photo by RINGO CHIU / AFP)

 

 

Families of teens who died after overdosing on drugs they bought through Snapchat and other social media platforms called Monday for tech firms to do more to address the problem.

Sam Chapman, part of a group that staged a protest Monday in front of Snapchat’s Santa Monica headquarters, told AFP his son died in February 2021 after a pill he purchased through the platform was laced with the extremely powerful opioid fentanyl.

“I’m here today to warn people about the dangers of social media, delivering drugs and other criminal acts into the lives of our families, through our children,” said Chapman, 57.

His son Sammy would have celebrated his 18th birthday last weekend.

Chapman described the horrific scene of finding his son dead on the floor in his bedroom, in what he said was called the “fentanyl death pose.”

“He had stopped breathing and fell backwards in his chair and vomited, and he choked on his own vomit… It’s a very common way of going,” said Chapman.

Of the 107,000 overdose deaths recorded last year in the United States, 70 percent were caused by “fentanyl poisoning,” which is now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, according to the groups backing Monday’s protest.

Chapman said a drug dealer had contacted his son on Snapchat, and sent him a “colorful drug menu with pictures.”

“At the bottom it said that he delivered. And so he connected with our son and delivered the drugs to our home after we were asleep, like it was a pizza,” he added.

Like the other victims’ family members, Chapman is calling on Snapchat and other social media platforms geared toward young people to take stronger action against drug sales.

“We have been working tirelessly to help combat this national crisis by eradicating illicit drug dealers from our platform,” a Snapchat spokesperson told AFP.

“We use advanced technology to proactively detect and shut down drug dealers who try to abuse our platform, and block search results for dangerous drug-related content,” the representative added.

But Chapman said the tools currently in place do not work because dealers use emojis and code words that aren’t blocked.

The group Victims of Illicit Drugs (VOID) is demanding US law to be updated so that social networks are held liable for what happens to their users on their platforms.

“If you’re walking in a grocery store, you slip and fall, you can sue them,” said VOID president Jaime Puerta.

“The law was written in 1996,” he added.

“The legislators had no idea of where the internet would be today.”

Snapchat Challenges TikTok With Curated Video Feed

This handout picture released on November 23, 2020 by Snapchat shows Snapchat’s latest feature called “Spotlight”.  (Photo by Handout / Snap Inc. / AFP)

 

Snapchat on Monday unveiled a new curated short-form video feed in a stepped up challenge to social media rivals like TikTok.

The new format called Spotlight will allow Snapchatters to see content from influencers and other members of the network popular with young smartphone users.

Spotlight is aimed at broadening the connections among Snapchat users by enabling anyone to create a video that gets distributed on the platform.

It aims to encourage more users to create short-form video “snaps” which can be embellished with filters and augmented reality effects.

Parent firm Snap describes Spotlight as a “new consumption experience” for the social platform with an estimated 249 million active users at the end of September.

The company said the new offering could enable anyone to have their videos viewed by millions of users, and potentially earn money from them.

Snap said that all videos on Spotlight will be reviewed by human moderators before being shown on the platform — in contrast with rivals which use automated systems and in many cases respond to inappropriate content after the fact.

Another difference will be the lack of public comments on Spotlight, eliminating the need for moderation of abusive or unwelcome content.

Spotlight aims to become a “personalized” feed which will be curated by algorithm based on users’ viewing habits — a move following the lead of TikTok which has seen sizzling growth in recent months.

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The launch comes amid increasing competition among social networks and rivals copying Snapchat’s disappearing messages.

Facebook’s core social network has been losing ground among younger audiences to rivals like Snapchat and TikTok, even as Facebook-owned Instagram continues to grow in that demographic group.

A Piper Jaffay survey of US teens last month showed Snapchat is their favorite social media platform, and that TikTok overtook Instagram for second place.

AFP

Snapchat Parent Hands Over Data For US Inquiry

File Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP

 

Snapchat’s parent company Snap said Wednesday US officials are looking into how forthright the company was with aspiring investors prior to its stock market debut last year.

Snap Inc. has been responding to subpoenas and request for information from the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, a spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

The inquiries apparently stemmed from a class-action lawsuit filed against Snap by investors who contend the company didn’t reveal how much of a competitive threat Snap faced from Facebook-owned Instagram.

“It is our understanding that these regulators are investigating issues related to the previously disclosed allegations asserted in the class action about our IPO disclosures,” the Snap spokesperson said.

“While we do not have complete visibility into these investigations, our understanding is that the DOJ is likely focused on IPO disclosures relating to competition from Instagram.”

Snap disputed the lawsuit’s claims, calling them “meritless,” and said it would continue to cooperate with regulators.

Snap shares were down 4.1 per cent to $6.44 in late afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares were priced at $17 for Snap’s initial public offering in March of last year.

Snap came under selling pressure late last month after a quarterly report showing a loss of one million users even as it grew revenues and narrowed losses.

Analysts say Snapchat has become the most popular social network among teens and young adults, but user growth has stalled as Facebook and its Instagram platform introduce services similar to those of Snapchat, known for its disappearing messages.

Although Snapchat is best known for its smartphone messaging, it has also developed partnerships with numerous media outlets eager to reach its audience with news, video and other content.

Snap recently announced it was launching a new slate of original video shows under its own brand in the latest move to spark growth.

Snapchat Parent Pressured By Drop In Users

A Snapchat log-in page is displayed on a mobile phone in Glendale, California. The youth-focused social network Snapchat announced October 10, 2018 it was launching a new slate of original video shows under its own brand in the latest move to spark growth.  Robyn BECK / AFP

 

Snapchat parent Snap came under selling pressure Thursday after a quarterly report showing a loss of one million users even as it grew revenues and narrowed losses.

The California group which operates the smartphone app popular with youth said revenue rose 43 per cent from a year ago to $298 million in the third quarter, as it narrowed losses to $118 million from $325 million.

But the key figure of daily active users was 186 million, a drop of one million from the past quarter and a rise of just five per cent from last year.

Snap shares slipped 5.4 per cent in after-hours trade on the results.

Analysts say Snapchat has become the most popular social network among teens and young adults, but user growth has stalled as Facebook and its Instagram platform introduce services similar to those of Snapchat, known for its disappearing messages.

“We’re investing in long-term growth opportunities and driving operational efficiencies,” said Tim Stone, Snap’s chief financial officer.

“We achieved record revenue and strong bottom-line results this quarter and expect a record fourth quarter, as we continue to invest in innovation for our community and scale our business.”

Although Snapchat is best known for its smartphone messaging, it has also developed partnerships with numerous media outlets eager to reach its audience with news, video and other content.

This month, Snap said it was launching a new slate of original video shows under its own brand in the latest move to spark growth.

The shows unveiled under the Snap Originals brand include a new comedy, a mystery thriller and a “docu-series.”

AFP

Snapchat Unveils New Original Shows Under Own Brand

 The Snapchat log-in page is displayed on a mobile phone in Glendale, California. The youth-focused social network Snapchat announced October 10, 2018, it was launching a new slate of original video shows under its own brand in the latest move to spark growth. Robyn BECK / AFP

 

The youth-focused social network Snapchat announced Wednesday it was launching a new slate of original video shows under its own brand in the latest move to spark growth.

The shows unveiled under the Snap Originals brand include a new comedy, a mystery thriller and a “docuseries” following rising stars in Laguna Beach, California.

Snapchat parent firm Snap Inc. joins internet rivals Facebook, Apple and Google-owned YouTube in developing its own original videos which may be watched on a variety of devices.

Last year, Snap announced plans to release original scripted shows under a partnership with NBCUniversal, but Wednesday’s announcement establishes its own brand.

“Snap Originals will also feature new Show Portals, letting you swipe up and step inside a scene from a Show to experience it for yourself,” a company statement said.

“Snap Originals will also have Lenses, Filters, and other fun ways for you to share the show experience with your friends.”

Snapchat is among the most popular social networks for young smartphone users but its user growth has stalled since its publish share offering last year, as Facebook and its Instagram network began offering similar services.

The service became known for its disappearing smartphone messages but recently has stepped up efforts to broaden its user base and improve engagement with content on its Discover platform, which has short videos from its media partners in sports, entertainment and news.

The new shows include Co-Ed, a comedy from the Duplass Brothers known for their HBO programs; Class of Lies, a thriller involving college students with a true-crime podcast; and Endless Summer, a documentary series following rising stars from the creators of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

AFP

Rihanna Blasts Snapchat Over Domestic Violence Inciting Ad

 

Rihanna on Thursday denounced Snapchat after an advertisement made light of her beating by fellow pop star Chris Brown, sending the company’s share prices tumbling.

The social media platform — which counts 187 million users, especially young people drawn to its quickly vanishing posts — had featured an advertisement for “Would You Rather?,” a game app that asks sometimes provocative questions.

The commercial showed the two singers and asked Snapchat users whether they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.”

The company pulled the advertisement and apologized, but Rihanna took to rival platform Instagram to denounce Snapchat.

“You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV (domestic violence) victims and made a joke of it!!!!” she wrote.

“This isn’t about my personal feelings, cause I don’t have much of them…but all the women, children, and men that have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet….you let us down! Shame on you.”

Suggesting that fans may have as little need for Snapchat as she has for its explications, she wrote: “Throw the whole app-oligy away.”

 

In a sign of Rihanna’s power, shares in parent company Snap Inc. fell 3.64 per cent on a largely stable day on Wall Street.

Last month, Snap share prices also went into a tailspin after socialite Kylie Jenner tweeted that the platform was becoming passé.

A Snapchat spokesperson said that the advertisement featuring Rihanna had been “reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines.”

“We immediately removed the ad last weekend, once we became aware. We are sorry that this happened,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Snapchat came under fire from activists and social media users who questioned how the post made it past the platform’s review process.

“Just awful. Awful that anyone thinks this is funny. Awful that anyone thinks this is appropriate. Awful that any company would approve this,” Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, wrote on Twitter.

Chris Brown was convicted in 2009 of beating Rihanna, his then-girlfriend, who was forced to miss the 2009 Grammy Awards.

The assault further shocked many observers when Rihanna, one of the most successful singers of the 21st century, temporarily resumed her relationship with Brown afterwards.

Snapchat Worried Over Facebook Dominance Among United States’ Youths

facebook

 

Facebook remains the most popular social network among Americans but faces a growing challenge from Snapchat for young audiences, a survey showed Thursday.

The Pew Research Center survey showed Facebook holding the dominant platform with 68 percent of Americans using the world’s biggest social network.

While Facebook leads the other social networks in all age groups, the gap has narrowed in the key 18-24 segment, where 78 percent use Snapchat compared with 80 percent for Facebook, Pew researchers found.

Facebook-owned Instagram, which emphasizes pictures and video, is also popular with some 71 percent of that age segment, Pew found.

The study is the latest highlighting Facebook’s challenge of keeping its core youth audience, while adding older users, amid growth in newer social networks like Snapchat, known for its disappearing messages and media snippets.

“As was true in previous years, Facebook remains the entry point to the world of social media for a majority of Americans,” said Pew research associate director Aaron Smith.

“At the same time, Americans today utilize a diverse range of online social platforms in addition to Facebook. And this is especially true of the youngest adults, many of whom have fully incorporated platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram into their social media diets.”

Pew found the median American uses three social platforms with considerable overlap among Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Twitter, meanwhile, continues to lag other platforms with 24 percent of Americans using the short messaging service.

Twitter recently reported its first-ever quarterly profit even though its global user base remained unchanged at 330 million compared with more than two billion for Facebook.

Pew said YouTube, which it does not consider a social network even though it has “social elements,” is used by 73 percent of US adults.

The report is based on a survey via mobile or landline telephone of 2,002 US adults from January 3-10 with a margin of error estimated a 2.4 percentage points for the full sample.

Two weeks ago, a report by eMarketer said Facebook is losing youths at a faster-than-expected pace and that many are turning to Snapchat.

Facebook has launched a Messenger Kids application for users under 12, with parental controls, saying many children already use messaging applications on their own.

Snapchat has faced problems of its own recently amid complaints about an application redesign which separates friends and media content, with a tweet from reality star Kylie Jenner causing a stock plunge.

Snapchat Loses $1.3bn After Kylie Jenner’s Tweet

Reality TV Star, Kylie Jenner. Photo Credit: Kylie Jenner’s Instagram.

 

Snapchat’s parent company lost some $1.3 billion in market value on Thursday after reality star Kylie Jenner’s tweeted that she was no longer using the messaging service.

“sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad,” Jenner tweeted.

She later followed up with “still love you tho snap … my first love,” but the damage may already have been done.

Snap Inc.’s shares fell by over six percent in Thursday trading, a loss of about $1.3 billion in market capitalization.

Jenner has huge followings on various social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram.

She gave birth to a daughter this month, and her Instagram post announcing the pregnancy quickly became one of the most liked posts of all time on the social media platform.

AFP

Snapchat Blocks Al Jazeera In Saudi Arabia

Snapchat has blocked Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera from its app in Saudi Arabia at the request of Saudi authorities, the image sharing service said Monday, as tensions simmer between the Gulf states.

Saudi authorities have accused Al Jazeera of acting as a mouthpiece for extremist groups, a charge it denies.

Alongside the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Qatar in June, in the worst diplomatic crisis to roil the Gulf in years.

“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” said a spokesman for parent company Snap Inc.

Al Jazeera condemned the blocking as an assault on freedom of expression.

“We find Snapchat’s action to be alarming and worrying,” the broadcaster’s acting director general Mostefa Souag said in a statement.

“This sends a message that regimes and countries can silence any voice or platform they don’t agree with by exerting pressure on the owners of social media platforms.”

Snap Inc. said Saudi authorities had asked it to block Al Jazeera’s account in the kingdom before the weekend, arguing that the broadcaster’s Discover channel violated local laws.

The broadcaster’s website has been blocked in Saudi Arabia for months and authorities shut down its office in the Kingdom when the crisis broke out in June.

So far, Al Jazeera’s Snapchat channel can still be viewed in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

The Saudi-led alliance has issued a list of 13 demands to Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with Riyadh’s Shiite rival Tehran.

Doha denies the charges, claiming the blockade is an attack on its sovereignty.

The crisis has entered its fourth month and is showing no sign of ending, analysts say.

Saudi Arabia, with its bulging youth population, is among the world’s top per capita users of social media.

The internet represents a limited space for freedom of expression in the conservative kingdom.

AFP