Snapchat’s role as a social-networking medium along with the ephemeral nature of the pictures and videos that one shares makes users believe that once a picture or video is sent and received, it cannot be saved or ever viewed again. Therefore, it is logical that Snapchat is used to send more risque and immodest materials by many users. However, because Snapchat cannot disable users from taking screenshots of “snaps,” and users have also found ways to download and save videos, a large number of controversies stemming from Snapchat have occurred.
For example, in one recent case, a student from a college in Michigan took a picture of herself in blackface with the caption, “HMU if you need ya cotton picked” (Dimick, 2017). The university claimed to discipline the student after a significant public outcry. Similarly, a high school student, also in Michigan, posted a picture of himself using a monkey face filter, provided by Snapchat, with the caption, “Black lives matter” (Johnson, 2016). In a third example of Snapchat being the medium of controversy, also in Michigan (again!), an eighteen year old male in high school was charged with possession of child sexually abusive material (Dupnack, 2017). Police discovered that the student had nude or inappropriate photographs of 35 other female students and had been sharing them. These photographs had been acquired through screenshots of their Snapchat pictures.
There are two telling quotes from this article that summarize how Snapchat is at the root of these controversies:
1. “‘When you post something on the Internet, even when you think it’s a Snapchat and it’s gone in five seconds or 10 seconds, it’s not gone. This is how these terrible things happen, people screenshot them and it can be used again,’ said Lt. David Kaiser, with Michigan State Police.”
2. Ann Kita, a counselor at YWCA in Flint, says what happened at Davison High School appears to be part of a larger, social problem. ‘There is a culture out there that is putting pressure on young women to comply with what is socially accepted,’ Kita said.”
Thus, it is clear that although Snapchat may not be directly causing the actions of these perpetrators, it is evident that Snapchat has at least affected their mindset and social interactions. It is highly unlikely that in the first two cases, the students would have been overtly racist in a public setting. However, under the guise of Snapchat as a “private” mode of communication, they believed that their photographs would not be seen or saved. Yet because Snapchat is still a social-network and is not as isolated as is commonly believed, they were caught and became embroiled in controversy. In summary, everything that is sent over wireless and digital platforms should be treated as permanent and un-erasable. Yet Snapchat gives the premise that this is not true.