Commentary

Snapchat Tells Its Partners To Clean Up Their Acts

Well, here’s one small step for man.

Snapchat says it is now barring publishers in its Discover section from using images or headlines that lack editorial value. And in the kind of shocking over-reach I endorse, it will also try to block images that have nothing to do with the story they’re used to illustrate.

All the better to block clickbait and fake news, so they say. The New York Times reported the story this morning, using as an example of a misleading photo, a story headlined, “Is This The Thirstiest Person On Earth?” coupled with the photo of “a bikini-clad blond woman.” The story was about an evidently very thirsty “fully-clothed man,” hair color and hotness not indicated.

The new Snapchat guidelines will also try to attempt to prevent Discover publishes from linking to fake news sites. The rules come as parent Snap, Inc. preps for a public offering.

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It’s all good news and possibly an indication that good comes out of bad. Fake news, in my mind, grew out of clickbait and Outbrain and Taboola-type sponsored messages that spew phony or wildly misleading headlines and graphics, the cheesy kinds of advertising once found in bad magazines and racy tabloids.

Now it would seem, some media entities are trying to save themselves from themselves, or their BFF media partners. Everybody is looking for fake news so they can smash it.

But in this case, Snapchat seems to be doing something trickier--ferreting out bad taste. That’s a much harder task, but god love 'em for trying.

Snapchat hopes its new rules "empower our editorial partners to do their part to keep Snapchat an informative, factual and a safe environment for everyone," a spokeswoman told the NYT, which sounds to me like a really sweet way to tell them to do the right thing.

The trouble with making rules you expect others to follow is the assumption that everybody has the same idea of what’s appropriate.

Based on at least a couple of stories about Snapchat’s actions, the gray area includes several shades. The Verge seemed to question the headline, “Iggy Gets Jiggy With New Man,” a story about singer Iggy Azalea’s kissy vacation with a hunk I am supposed to know, carried by The Daily Mail.  

On Mashable, the site reproduced a Twitter tweak from Vanity Fair reporter Maya Kosoff that included graphics of titillating headlines and graphics hyping stories on Vice, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed and others.

Mashable noted, “Snapchat has positioned itself as a network free from misleading news and propaganda while Facebook is plagued by it.”

pj@mediapost.com
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