Evan Spiegel tells us what we want to hear

Revue
 
Is Snap our savior from fake news? Snap would like us to think so. Here's Evan Spiegel writing in Axi
 

The Interface

November 29 · Issue #36 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

Is Snap our savior from fake news? Snap would like us to think so. Here’s Evan Spiegel writing in Axios about how the company’s decision to curate a small selection of publishers for its Discover feed has inoculated it from Russian bot networks and malicious, profit-driven hoaxes:
Social media fueled “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?
Be smart: 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. 
The occasion was the company’s announcement today that its redesigned app, which puts your friends on one side of the app and brands on another, would roll out over the next few weeks:
The idea is not completely new. The left side of the app has always been for chats with friends, and the right side has always been for brands. But before now, stories — the ephemeral, public photo and video posts that disappear after 24 hours — have been housed in their own tab to the right of the camera screen. The stories tab blended content from friends and brands, to sometimes confusing effect.
On one hand this is a product story. But for our purposes here today, this is mostly a spin story. Snap, reeling from a terrible quarter and under huge pressure to grow its user base and its revenues, has seen the smart set all but give up on it as an independent company over the past six months. Its secretive nature helped to ensure that the darkest narratives about the company are also the loudest — Snap rarely makes Spiegel available to talk with journalists.
And so for Spiegel to arrive with an op-ed that tells the media exactly what they want to hear — that a return to fair-minded human gatekeepers will solve the country’s misinformation crisis while giving publishers a stable source of profits — strikes me as more than a little self-serving. 
On one hand, it’s true that there’s less misinformation on Snapchat. It hand-picks its partners, and has chosen a group of large mainstream publishers that avoid wild conspiracy theories and outright lies. On the other hand, well, have you ever seen the headlines in Discover? Here’s CNBC:
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”
You can be thirsty AF for an end to fake news and still not quite see your way to how Snapchat will get us there. The company’s primary interest remains in private messaging. And can private messaging spread misinformation? Here’s Foreign Policy, in a piece I’ve linked before:
A hoax about child-napping con artists led to the beating of two people this spring in Brazil. A rumor about a salt shortage last fall sparked panicked rushes to markets in several Indian states that turned fatal. And fabricated poll reports sowed doubts about the electoral standing of candidates ahead this month’s elections in Kenya, where the result is disputed and dozens have been killed in protests.
When fake news has violent consequences, journalists have a duty to set the record straight as quickly as possible. But the details of these rumors — who was behind them and why — are particularly murky and likely to remain that way. That’s due to one seemingly trivial detail: In all of these cases, the misinformation made its way to readers via the messaging service WhatsApp.
Perhaps Spiegel has a solution to fake news in private messaging as well. But if so, he hasn’t said it.
I don’t begrudge Snap its effort to reset the narrative on friendlier terms. Certainly any efforts to tamp down the spread of hoaxes is to be welcomed. But let’s not pretend that the Discover feed is the front page of the New York Times — or that the good old days of gatekeeping are here again. 

Democracy
The darkest day of Trump's presidency
Inside the tweet that broke Trump's day, again - POLITICO
Elsewhere
Facebook to stop allowing advertisers to exclude racial and ethnic groups in targeting
Meet the man who deactivated Trump’s Twitter account
Launches
Facebook’s New Captcha Test: 'Upload A Clear Photo of Your Face'
Facebook drops fee on donations, will match $50M/year, adds Mentor feature
Facebook is making it easier for people to find actual news in their News Feed
Stories are coming to YouTube next
Instagram testing GIF search for Stories
Takes
Snapchat Seems Confused About Its Mission - Bloomberg Gadfly
And finally
Beyoncé’s iconic pregnancy photo is 2017’s most liked Instagram post
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Ideas to save Snap? casey@theverge.com 
Did you enjoy this issue?
Thumbs up 1ae5a7bdfcd3220e2b376aa0c1607bc5edaba758e5dd83b482d03965219a220b Thumbs down e13779fa29e2935b47488fb8f82977fedcf689a0cc0cc3c19fa3c6bb14d1493b
Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.