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Evan Spiegel quotes de Tocqueville

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Snap is looking to grow in Europe, and so today we find Evan Spiegel sitting for a profile with the G
 
December 5 · Issue #40 · View online
The Interface
Snap is looking to grow in Europe, and so today we find Evan Spiegel sitting for a profile with the Guardian. It hits all the old familiar notes — a wealthy upbringing, a Stanford fraternity, sexting — but my ears perked up when he started quoting Alexis de Tocqueville.
“Tocqueville had this idea that individualism would undermine democracy. And, as we look at how technology has evolved, it has really empowered us to believe that we are in charge of our own destiny. It certainly has helped perpetuate individualism. And Tocqueville in particular was very focused on this idea that the newspaper was one of the most important tools for helping democracy overcome individualism because it provided a common framework for understanding the world. So, I think the question is: if your friends are the ones who are effectively editing the newspaper that you consume, and if everyone is reading their own newspaper constructed by your friends, what is the bridge to the common understanding and support of freedom and equality that has made democracy so strong?
Spiegel is really speaking my language here. The question is whether the forthcoming new version of Snapchat — which, as you’ll recall, attempts to contain all news content within a heavily curated and monitored Discover page — recaptures that newspaper feel, and recreates a sense of common understanding. 
I remain skeptical about this idea. One reason is that the genie is out of the bottle; the largest platforms all remain singularly devoted to “individualism” in the way Spiegel describes it. Facebook and Twitter are conversations with the world; Snapchat is smaller and and more inward-looking. With rare exceptions, news doesn’t break on Snapchat; a newspaper that breaks no news is rarely a great friend to democracy.
Then there’s the fact that we’ve heard this metaphor before. It was Mark Zuckerberg who said, during his first public Q&A in 2014, that Facebook would build “the perfect personalized newspaper” for everyone in the world. And that mission led us to our present world of misinformation and plummeting trust in the media.
Of course, Spiegel might say that the problem with Zuckerberg’s vision wasn’t the newspaper part, but the personalization. And so Snap is endeavoring to give us something less personalized, rather than more.
“We say: if you want to talk with your friends, talk about whatever you want. But if we’re going to give a lot of distribution to someone, we want to make sure that they’re making really high-quality stuff. Or, you know, at a minimum, that someone has looked at what that is.”
Last week, I worried that this was simply telling us what we wanted to hear. No one, after all, can be opposed to the presentation of “really high-quality stuff.” But the reality of the Discover feed is often more puerile — something that Alex Hern, author of the Guardian story, points out:
Some of this lofty rhetoric can be a bit odd when juxtaposed with the lighthearted lifestyle content that makes up the majority of published stories on Snapchat (sample headlines from the day we meet include “Do girls actually like when you do THIS?”, “Will this fix yellow teeth?” and, “This dog’s best friend is REALLY bizarre”), but Spiegel insists that those who want hard news do find it.
“On my Discover page, I have the Economist, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. And I have some new shows, one from CNN and one from NBC,” he says. “I would suggest to you that historically there’s always been a spectrum … We’d like to give you lots of choices in terms of the stories that you’d like to watch. Some of it will be very serious and some will be more lighthearted – and I think that speaks to the range of human expression.”
Even if I doubt Snapchat will prove to be journal of ideas it has lately been represented as, I do remain hopeful. There’s value in a big company stating its editorial values, and having that statement reflect an interest in quality, accuracy, and a range of opinions. Evan Spiegel has written a large check with his mouth — now let’s see whether Snap can cash it. 

Democracy
How the Kremlin Tried to Pose as American News Sites on Twitter
Facebook Allowed Political Ads That Were Actually Scams
YouTube Hiring More Humans to Train Computers to Police the Site
Internet Content Moderation 101
FCC won’t delay vote, says net neutrality supporters are “desperate”
Elsewhere
Google is pulling YouTube off the Fire TV and Echo Show
BBC launches Own It website to help under-12s navigate online risks
‘Niche Memes’ Are the Secret Clip Art Diaries Teens Are Posting on Instagram
How brands secretly buy their way into Forbes, Fast Company, and HuffPost stories
Where Silicon Valley Is Going to Get in Touch With Its Soul
Launches
As tbh popularity wanes, Facebook launches ‘Did You Know’ social questionnaire
Pinterest launches Facebook Messenger bot
Instagram will now create a private archive for all of your stories
Takes
How Messenger Kids takes more from families than it gives them
Facebook for 6-Year-Olds? Welcome to Messenger Kids
The Pollyannish Assumption
The Return of the Techno-Moral Panic
And finally ...
HQ Trivia host Scott Rogowsky is having a hard time dating
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Favorite de Tocqueville quotes? Reply to this email, or try casey@theverge.com.
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