A growing chorus of social media companies appear to be taking a stand against President Trump’s accounts, with Snap Inc.’s decision to boot the POTUS from Snapchat’s Discover section on Wednesday being the latest.
According to Snap Inc., Trump’s public comments have the potential to incite violence. In particular, it called out tweets he posted Saturday, when he invoked language such as “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” as measures against protestors who’ve taken to the streets after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Although he didn’t blast the comments on Snapchat itself, that was enough for the company to take action and minimize Trump’s presence on its own platform. According to Snap spokeswoman Rachel Racusen, “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover.”
Notably, Snap isn’t removing his account. But the decision to keep him off Discover effectively lowers the president’s profile. Discover typically serves up news, stories and shares by high-profile people, from celebrities, musicians and athletes to government officials.
The decision follows Twitter’s efforts over the past week to fact-check Trump’s tweets on mail-in voting and minimize messages glorifying violence.
The president’s rhetoric has apparently reached a tipping for some social media platforms, most of which had been largely hands off during the current administration. Some still are: Facebook continues to equivocate on the matter, though chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has been facing growing backlash — even from his own employees, who staged a virtual walkout earlier this week over the company’s failure to act on political misinformation or posts that incite violence.
While other platforms are acting in response to the president’s inflammatory, and often misleading, messaging, Facebook has framed the issue as a matter of free speech. Viewing Trump’s shares as newsworthy, the platform has allowed them to remain on the platform without disclaimers or other warnings.
Evan Spiegel, Snap’s cofounder and ceo, effectively warned employees that it was evaluating such issues in a memo posted to its blog earlier this week.
“We will make it clear with our actions that there is no gray area when it comes to racism, violence and injustice,” Spiegel wrote. “We simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform.”
Trump has amassed a Snapchat following of some 1.5 million people, which is significant, but much smaller than his Twitter audience of 81 million followers. Snapchat, a popular app among younger users, has been enjoying a surge during the pandemic. In April, the company said its daily active users hit 229 million people, which was more than it expected.
Snap’s move to minimize the Trump’s reach on its platform lands in the wake of the White House’s effort to clap back against social media companies. Immediately following Twitter’s online fact-check, Trump accused the company of censorship and even interference in the upcoming November presidential election. He signed an executive order intending to strip protections for tech companies, which might otherwise be held liable for user content on their platforms.
It’s not at all clear that he has the authority to rescind those protections. It’s also not evident whether Snapchat’s position will hit the president as close to home as that of Twitter, his favorite means of communication with his followers.