Snapchat tosses Trump from Discover, drawing advertiser praise and presidential rage
Snapchat took away President Trump's gold star, joining Twitter in punishing his accounts over remarks that appeared to advocate violence against the George Floyd marchers. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to face an internal insurrection over its more lenient policies toward Trump—and the topic has ignited a fierce debate among Madison Avenue ad executives, who have begun calling for more accountability from social platforms.
On Wednesday, Snapchat waded into the fight over Trump's social media usage by removing his account from the media section of the app called Discover. The president's Snapchat account had an official gold star, which made it eligible to appear publicly on Discover, but that privilege has now been withdrawn. His account will remain visible to the millions of followers who actively subscribe to his videos on Snapchat, but it will no longer benefit from the added promotion that Discover placement provides.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2020 election, is unaffected by Snapchat’s latest policy decision. Biden’s campaign is available to appear in Discover.
“We are not currently promoting the President’s content on Snapchat’s Discover platform,” a Snapchat spokesman said in an email statement. “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”
The Trump Campaign responded with a statement just a few hours later: “Snapchat is trying to rig the 2020 election, illegally using their corporate funding to promote Joe Biden and suppress President Trump. Radical Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel would rather promote extreme left riot videos and encourage their users to destroy America than share the positive words of unity, justice, and law and order from our President.”
The statement continued: “Snapchat hates that so many of their users watch the President’s content and so they are actively engaging in voter suppression. If you’re a conservative, they do not want to hear from you, they do not want you to vote. They view you as a deplorable and they do not want you to exist on their platform.”
In May, Bloomberg News reported that Snapchat had become a major platform for the president’s re-election campaign. Trump has an advantage over Biden on many social media sites, Bloomberg News wrote. Snapchat Discover is the best place to be seen by the app’s 229 million daily active users.
Last Monday, Floyd died in Minneapolis and so far one police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with his murder. Three other officers will be charged, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. On Friday, Trump tweeted and posted a message to Facebook that said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which was taken to mean he supported using violence against protesters.
Twitter slapped Trump's account with a warning label that said the tweet violated its policies against “glorifying violence.” Snapchat says that it debated over the weekend whether to punish Trump's account for his social media activity off its platform.
Facebook has been criticized for not checking Trump's activity, and employees at the social network have protested. One Facebook staffer resigned publicly on Tuesday. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the media, his staff and civil rights leaders, but he has stood firm against policing political speech on the platform. Zuckerberg says Facebook should not be the "arbiter of truth.”
Trump and social media companies were at odds even before the civil unrest prompted by Floyd's death. Last week, Trump signed an executive order calling for the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to investigate companies like Twitter if they censor his messages. Trump demanded internet platforms lose their immunity from liability over content published on their services, which is granted under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Prominent advertisers from major brands and agencies have joined the chorus of protesters prodding platforms to take a more proactive position. Lou Paskalis, senior VP of customer engagement and investment for Bank of America, has been outspoken on Twitter calling for stricter enforcement of policies. “Very pleased to see Snapchat take a stand that recognizes our nation is at a crossroads and their platform is being exploited by individuals [whose] message is not consistent with our highest and best selves,” Paskalis said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Daryl Lee, global CEO of IPG Mediabrands, supported Twitter's move to fact-check a Trump message about mail-in voter fraud. Twitter put a “get the facts” link on a tweet last week, spurring Trump to issue his executive order against internet companies.
“All advertiser-supported platforms need to address the phenomenon of misinformation better than they have,” Lee wrote on LinkedIn on Monday. “And removing posts by leaders that incite racial or any other kind of violence also seems like an inarguable good and about time. The platforms have said they can self-regulate. Here’s to following Twitter’s lead.”