Snap CEO Evan Spiegel attacked 'unworthy distractions' on Facebook and Twitter — but Snapchat is full of them



Snap CEO Evan Spiegel attacked 'unworthy distractions' on Facebook and Twitter — but Snapchat is full of them

  • Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote a blog post on Wednesday suggesting that Snapchat's content is better than what users find on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Spiegel argues that curation and a focus on user content, as opposed to sharing for "Likes" and friends, helps stop the spread of false news narratives.
  • Still, Snapchat is loaded with click-bait stories akin to the "unworthy distractions" that Spiegel sees on Facebook and Twitter.
CEO and co-founder of Snapchat Evan Spiegel
Getty Images
CEO and co-founder of Snapchat Evan Spiegel

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel criticized his rivals at Twitter and Facebook for spreading fake news on Wednesday, but he should own up to the fact that Snapchat is spreading a ton of useless, silly and irrelevant news, hardly making it the model for a responsible social network.

Facebook and Twitter have come under fire from the U.S. government. Both social networks enabled Russian-sponsored groups to run propaganda largely meant to capitalize on the differing viewpoints of U.S. citizens in an effort to create a divide among the population.

Spiegel, in what appears to be an attempt to capitalize on those issues, pointed to Snapchat's content as a sort of beacon of how social networks should be run, since content is screened before it's posted.

"The Snapchat solution is to rely on algorithms based on your interests — not on the interests of 'friends' — and to make sure media companies also profit off the content they produce for our Discover platform," he wrote. "We think this helps guard against fake news and mindless scrambles for friends or unworthy distractions."

He also wrote that the trend toward personalized newsfeeds came "at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry."

But Snapchat is just as guilty of spreading "unworthy distractions" that arguably hurt "our minds."

Unworthy distractions

CNBC: Todd Haselton

While Snapchat does have valuable news from well-established media companies, including coverage of international conflicts, refugees, live coverage from natural disasters and more, it also features clickbait headlines under the Discover tab that are the very opposite of hard-hitting journalism.

Some sample headlines that were front and center when I opened Snapchat this morning:

  • "Do Girls Actually Like When You Do THIS?"
  • "Don't let your parents see THIS."
  • "The Last 5 Things Yara Shahidi ate."
  • "This Peruvian Chef will make you thirsty AF"

There was also a headline from Daily Mail titled "Kim goes casual," that linked to a story about Kim Kardashian wearing athletic leisure clothes.

"This secret is hiding in plain sight" was about a calculator app that hides nude photos on your phone, while "Gucci Mane's new hair has the internet shrieking" covered the rapper's new $500 haircut and "These Celebs get REAL about losing their virginity" featured Joe Jonas and others discussing having sex for the first time.

Scattered among those headlines are links to more serious stories: "After the Olympics, a Nightmare in Rio" (The New York Times) and "North Korea Just Launched a Ballistic Missile" (CNN), but the vast majority of the editorial content featured on Snapchat today is lightweight fluff.

A spokesperson explained to me that Snapchat has a team of editors that fact-checks each story, so while someone like myself might see these stories as clickbait, at least the content inside is vetted for accuracy.

Still, it's hard to see how this is more compelling than say, jumping on Twitter and viewing posts from established and verified news outlets and journalists that I have chosen to follow because I value their work. Sure, the facts might be there, but who really cares if a Double Stuf Oreo is actually double stuffed? Or what Yara Shahidi ate?

Todd Haselton | CNBC

To be fair, Snapchat is planning some changes that could let users who don't want this kind of content — like me — see less of it.

A spokesperson for Snap explained that an updated version of the app, which will begin rolling out this week and to a larger audience in the coming weeks, has better algorithms to learn what users want to see and what they don't.

A user who clicks New York Times stories, for example, will begin to see more of them. There's also the option to hide content, so Snapchat will begin to learn if you hate clickbait or silly stories.

That's a move in the right direction. But Spiegel should climb down from his high horse and acknowledge that Snapchat in its current form is a great distraction from the real world.

Read Spiegel's full post on Axios.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Snap.