Like Twitter and unlike Facebook, Snapchat is taking action after Donald Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” and threatened to use “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” against protesters in the wake of George Floyd‘s death.
The platform “simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence,” Snap cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in a staff memo posted publicly today.
As such, Trump’s account (which has around 1.5 million followers) will no longer be promoted on Snapchat’s Discover tab, where it was regularly featured alongside accounts of other public figures and high-profile publishing brands. However, his account will be left up–which appears to be because Trump didn’t actually make those statements on Snapchat, but on Twitter and Facebook.
“We may continue to allow divisive people to maintain an account on Snapchat, as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines, but we will not promote that account or content in any way,” Spiegel wrote. This seems to leave a potential door open for Snapchat to actually delete his account if he were to post similar, policy-violating statements directly to the platform in the future.
Over the past three and a half years of his presidency, Trump has regularly posted social media content that violates sites’ policies, but Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have all expressly chosen not to remove his accounts, and have let his content stand untouched as a matter of public interest.
That is, until last week, when Twitter placed Trump’s aforementioned tweets about protesters under click-through coverings that warned potential viewers they were in violation of policies against “glorifying violence.” The platform also placed fact-checking information atop separate tweets containing misleading information about mail-in voting, a move that Trump cited as his reason for signing a new executive order aiming to strip legal protections from social media platforms.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, decided to let Trump’s statements–which he reposted in full from Twitter to his Facebook page–remain unflagged, a choice that has sparked unprecedented intracompany backlash from executives and employees.
We condemn racism. We must embrace profound change. It starts with advocating for creating more opportunity, and for living the American values of freedom, equality and justice for all.
Our CEO Evan’s memo to our team: https://t.co/r57qC9yh7L
— Snapchat (@Snapchat) June 1, 2020
“It is my sincere and earnest hope that the leadership of our great country will work towards our founding values, our raison d’être: freedom, equality, and justice for all,” Spiegel wrote. “Until that day, we will make it clear with our actions that there is no grey area when it comes to racism, violence, and injustice–and we will not promote it, nor those who support it, on our platform.”
Responding to Spiegel’s memo, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale called Spiegel a “radical,” and said that Snapchat is “trying to rig the 2020 election, illegally using their corporate funding to promote Joe Biden and suppress President Trump. “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.”
Also in his memo, Spiegel called for the U.S. government to establish a “diverse, non-partisan Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations” that will, among other things, amplify concerns from Black Americans and investigate bias in the criminal justice system.
Snap intends to make monetary donations to organizations that support equality and justice, Spiegel added. “But in my experience, philanthropy is simply unable to make more than a dent in the grave injustices we face,” he said. “Private philanthropy can patch holes, or accelerate progress, but it alone cannot cross the deep and wide chasm of injustice.”