- Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel said the rise of social media came at “a huge cost to facts” and that it had “fuelled fake news.”
- Writing in an op-ed for Axios, Spiegel made several barely veiled criticisms of his firm’s biggest rival, Facebook, by describing social media as “mindless scrambles for friends.”
- Snapchat is due to unveil a major overhaul of its app shortly, after a poor third quarter earnings performance and ongoing criticism that it’s too difficult for normal people to use.
Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel took a direct shot at Facebook and Twitter in a blistering op-ed that claimed social media “fuelled” fake news and encouraged “mindlesss scrambles for friends.”
In the piece, published in Axios ahead of a major overhaul of Snapchat’s app, Spiegel takes direct aim at Facebook, which has been relentlessly cloning Snapchat’s features over the last year.
He begins the op-ed with: “The personalised newsfeed revolutionised the way people share and consume content. But let’s be honest: this came at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry.
“This is a challenging problem to solve because the obvious benefits that have driven the growth of social media – more friends! more likes! more free content! – are also the things that will undermine it in the long run.”
Spiegel wrote that the drive to friend more people on social media makes it difficult to post somewhere like Facebook without feeling judged.
He added: “Social media fuelled “fake news” because content designed to be shared by friends is not necessarily content designed to deliver accurate information. After all, how many times have you shared something you’ve never bothered to read?”
This is the first time that Spiegel has openly criticised Facebook (without actually naming Facebook), which has mercilessly cloned his app over the last year. His wife, Miranda Kerr, made headlines in February when she asked why Facebook had to “steal” his ideas.
His op-ed deals directly with the fact that his firm has largely escaped the fake news and misinformation issues which have swamped both Facebook and Twitter this year.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google were questioned in the US, and are being questioned in the UK, about their possible roles in Russian meddling in the US election and the Brexit referendum. But Snapchat has been noticeably absent from the grillings.
Spiegel wrote: “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. We think this helps guard against fake news and mindless scrambles for friends or unworthy distractions.”
Spiegel’s answer is, unsurprisingly, his own redesigned app.
The new app will still open into the camera as usual, but entails a major user interface overhaul that should make it easier to use. Spiegel also hinted that Snapchat would adopt a Facebook-style news feed somewhere within the app – though in his op-ed, he said this won’t be curated by friends as per Facebook, but by a Netflix-style algorithm.
He wrote: “Netflix uses machine-learning algorithms to recommend content to subscribers based on what they watched in the past. Research shows that your own past behaviour is a far better predictor of what you’re interested in than anything your friends are doing.”
Spiegel might be bullish against Facebook in particular, but Snapchat’s stock price has nosedived 44% in the year to date, while Facebook’s is up 56% over the same period. Bloomberg described Snapchat as a “disaster” after its float, as investor confidence plunged. In its most recent quarterly results, the firm took a $US40 million (£30 million) inventory charge on its Spectacles after misjudging demand, while revenue was lower than expectations.
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