Snapchat has rung the police over fake news — not to call in officers to investigate, but to check its facts.
The social app revealed to the BBC that it checked content shared by its users with Charlottesville police after protests and counter-protests erupted in violence in the American city. Snap has a team of journalists curating editorial content for the app, with traditional news outlets turning to Snapcaht as a way to reach younger audiences.
Nick Bell, vice-president of content at Snap, told BBC Radio 4 that the company’s team of journalists evaluates content for accuracy, relevancy, and to see how to add more context.
“So, if you look at some of the events in Charlottesville, for example, in recent weeks, we actually received Snaps from members of our community of the driver being arrested,” he told the BBC. “Before we published these Snaps, we actually verified with the police to make sure that… the snaps that we were posting to our 173 million daily active users were of what we thought they were.” That fact checking reportedly included contacting the local police to ensure the information shared was correct.
Snap’s approach is in stark contrast to Facebook’s own method, which uses automated algorithms to flag so-called fake news, though the social network has started to take more serious measures against those sharing incorrect information, including blocking advertising.
Bell added that Snapchat has had fewer problems with extremism on its app than social networks have seen, suggesting it’s because the app was designed to communicate with a small number of friends rather than broadcast to large audiences.
“We actually make it pretty difficult for you to build a large following,” Bell said. “What I am saying is that it’s much harder for radicalists to emerge and create a large following on Snapchat than it maybe is on other platforms.”