How Snap is Responding to the Fentanyl Crisis

Updated Heads Up

Drugs laced with fentanyl have contributed to an alarming increase in overdose deaths in the United States in recent years. Fentanyl is a potent opioid, deadly in quantities as small as one grain of sand. Drug dealers often use fentanyl to make counterfeit prescription pills, like Vicodin or Xanax, which when ingested can lead to death. 

We have heard devastating stories from families impacted by this crisis, including cases where fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills were purchased from drug dealers on Snapchat. We are determined to remove illegal drug sales from our platform, and we have been investing in proactive detection and collaboration with law enforcement to hold drug dealers accountable for the harm they are causing our community. 

We believe it is our responsibility to keep our community safe on Snapchat and we have made significant operational improvements over the past year to eradicate drug sales from our platform and we are continually working to improve. Our work here is never done, but we want to communicate updates as we make progress so that our community can monitor our progress and hold us accountable.

Our most important investments over the past year have included significant investments in our Law Enforcement Operations, growing our team who supports valid law enforcement requests to meaningfully improve how quickly we can respond. While we still have work to do, across all types of law enforcement requests we receive, our response times have improved 85% year over year, and in the case of emergency disclosure requests, our 24/7 team usually responds within 30 mins.

We have significantly improved our proactive detection capabilities to remove drug dealers from our platform before they are able to harm our community. Our enforcement rates have increased by 112% during the first half of 2021, and we have increased proactive detection rates by 260%. Nearly two-thirds of drug-related content is detected proactively by our artificial intelligence systems, with the balance reported by our community and enforced by our team. We’ve also worked to improve our in-app reporting tools to make it easier and faster for our community to report drug-related content.

We will continue to work to strike the right balance between safety and privacy on our platform so that we can empower our community to express themselves without fear of harm. By design, Snapchatters control who can contact them and must opt-in to new conversations with friends. If a member of our community reports inappropriate content, it is escalated to our Trust & Safety team so that we are able to take appropriate action. We are also working on new family safety tools to provide more ways for parents to partner together with their teenagers to stay safe on Snapchat.

We also want to play a role in educating our community about the dangers of fentanyl. To inform our efforts, we commissioned research from Morning Consult to understand how young people perceive prescription drugs and fentanyl, and are sharing those findings here. We learned that teenagers are suffering from high levels of stress and anxiety, and are experimenting with the use of prescription drugs without a prescription as a coping strategy. It was also clear from the research that many people either don’t know enough about fentanyl to assess the danger, or believe fentanyl is less dangerous than heroin or cocaine. This lack of awareness can have devastating consequences when just one counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl can kill.

Heads Up Graphic

We have developed a new in-app education portal called Heads Up that distributes content from expert organizations such as Song for Charlie, Shatterproof, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), with additional resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be added in the coming weeks. This means that if someone on Snapchat searches for drug-related keywords, Heads Up will show relevant educational content designed to prevent harm to our community.

In partnership with Song for Charlie, we have developed a video advertising campaign that has already been viewed over 260 million times on Snapchat, and we are rolling out a new national filter that raises awareness of the dangers of fentanyl and counterfeit pills and directs Snapchatters to the new Heads Up educational portal. A new episode of Good Luck America, a Snap Original news show, will premiere soon, continuing a special edition series of episodes devoted to educating our community about the fentanyl crisis.

We hope that our ongoing operational improvements and educational efforts will help to keep our community safe from the devastating impacts of the fentanyl crisis. We are heartbroken that drugs have taken the lives of people in our community. We deeply appreciate the generosity and kindness of families who have come forward to share their stories, collaborate, and hold us accountable for making progress. We will work tirelessly to do better and do more to keep our community safe.

- Team Snap

Our Approach to Preventing the Spread of False Information

As the world continues to battle the latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure the public has access to accurate, credible information. The rapid spread of false information can pose serious threats to our institutions and public health, and we believe we’re in a moment in which companies, organizations, and individuals should take stock of their efforts to help prevent it.

In that spirit, we thought it would be helpful to walk through our long held approach to preventing the spread of false information on Snapchat, and the ways we are working to improve. 

Our approach has always started with the architecture of our platform. Snapchat was originally built to help people talk to their close friends, rather than provide the opportunity to broadcast messages across the app. And we have always felt a deep responsibility to make sure that the news and information our community sees on Snapchat is credible, from trusted and clear sources. 

These underlying principles have informed our product design and policy decisions as Snapchat has continued to evolve over the years. 

  • Across our app, we don’t allow unvetted content the opportunity to ‘go viral.’ Snapchat does not offer an unmoderated open newsfeed where unvetted individuals or publishers can broadcast false information. Our content platform, Discover, only features content from vetted media publishers and content creators. Our entertainment platform, Spotlight, is proactively moderated before content can reach a large audience. We offer Group Chats, but they are limited in size, are not recommended by algorithms, and are not discoverable on our platform if you are not a member of that Group.

  • Our guidelines have long prohibited the spread of false information. Both our Community Guidelines, which apply equally to all Snapchatters, and our content guidelines, which apply to our Discover partners, prohibit the spread of misinformation that can cause harm, including conspiracy theories, denying the existence of tragic events, unsubstantiated medical claims, or undermining the integrity of civic processes.  We regularly review and update our policies as new forms of misinformation become more prevalent: for example, ahead of the 2020 election, we updated our guidelines to make clear that manipulated media intended to mislead -- or deepfakes -- were prohibited.

  • Our approach to enforcing against content that includes false information is straightforward -- we don’t label it, we completely remove it. When we find content that violates our guidelines, our policy is to simply take it down, which immediately reduces the risk of it being shared more widely. 

  • We evaluate the safety and privacy impacts of all new features during the front end of the product development process -- which includes examining potential vectors for misuse. We have internal measures in place to evaluate the potential impact of a new feature on the safety, privacy, and wellbeing of both Snapchatters, our individual users and society during the product development process -- and if we think it will become an avenue for bad actors to share false information, it doesn’t get released.

  • We use human review to fact check all political and advocacy ads. As with all content on Snapchat, we prohibit false information and deceptive practices in our advertising. All political ads, including election-related ads, issue advocacy ads, and issue ads, must include a transparent “paid for” message that discloses the sponsoring organization. We use human review to fact check all political ads, and provide information about all ads that pass our review in our Political Ads library.

  • We are committed to increasing transparency into our efforts to combat false information. Our most recent Transparency Report, which covered the second half of 2020, included several new elements, including data about our efforts to enforce against false information globally. During this period, we took action against 5,841 pieces of content and accounts for violations of our policies on false information -- and we plan to provide more detailed breakdowns of these violations in our future reports. 

As we keep working to remove incentives for sharing false information, both through our product design choices and our policies, we’re also focused on partnering with experts to promote factual health and safety information. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked closely with public health officials and agencies, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to publish regular safety updates, and our news partners around the world have produced constant coverage of the pandemic. Earlier this Spring, as vaccines became available for young people in the US, we launched a new effort with the White House to help Snapchatters answer common questions, and in July, we teamed up with the UK’s National Health Service on a similar effort. 

Doing our part to help our community stay safe and healthy is an ongoing priority for us, and we will continue to explore innovative approaches to reach Snapchatters where they are, while strengthening our efforts to protect Snapchat from the false information epidemic. 

Educating Snapchatters on the Dangers of Fentanyl

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new data showing that drug overdose deaths in the U.S have soared to record levels -- increasing more than 30% in 2020 and finding that this spike was driven by the prevalence of fentanyl, a lethal substance, and compounded by stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Song for Charlie, a national organization focused on educating young people about the dangers of fentanyl, many of these deaths occur from taking a single pill disguised as a legitimate prescription medication, but actually was counterfeit -- containing fentanyl. And young people, who often experiment with prescription pills such as Xanax and Percocet, are especially vulnerable.

We first began working with Song for Charlie earlier this year to better understand the fentanyl epidemic and identify ways we and other tech companies can help make a difference. Today they are launching a new nationwide public awareness campaign to reach young people where they are -- on tech platforms -- and educate them about the hidden dangers of these fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl.  We are grateful to partner with Song for Charlie to help inform our Snapchat community on how to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

As part of this effort, our in-house news show, Good Luck America, dedicated a special episode to the fentanyl epidemic featuring an interview with Song for Charlie Founder, Ed Ternan, who tragically lost his 22-year old son Charlie after taking a fake prescription pill. You can watch the full episode below, or on our Discover content platform.  

In addition, Snapchatters can now watch PSAs produced by Song for Charlie on our Discover platform and use a new Augmented Reality (AR) lens that features key facts on the dangers of fentanyl. The lens also links to more information to help educate and inform their closest friends and encourages people to take the “No Random Pills” pledge. This initial launch is the first in a sustained partnership between Song for Charlie and Snap, which will include additional in-app education and public awareness initiatives. 

As we work to raise awareness, we also are working to strengthen our efforts to better prevent, detect and combat drug-related activity on Snapchat. Our guidelines prohibit the sale or promotion of illegal drugs, and when we proactively detect this type of content or it is reported to us, our Trust and Safety teams take quick action. 

We block drug-related terms, including slang, from usernames or being searchable on Snapchat, and regularly audit these block lists with the latest language, working closely with third-party experts. We are also constantly updating our machine learning tools for proactively identifying images, words, emojis and other likely indicators of drug-related accounts, along with other capabilities for finding and stopping drug transactions. 

We are committed to continuing to do our part to help our community protect themselves and their friends, while we keep improving our capabilities for fighting drug dealers and drug-related content online.

Doing our Part to Tackle Online Hate

We are saddened and appalled by the racist abuse that has been directed at England footballers on several online platforms following the Euro 2020 final. We wanted to give an overview of our ongoing work to combat racism, hate speech, harassment and abuse on Snapchat, as well as the steps we are taking to educate our community.

We have put a lot of work into designing a platform that prevents the opportunity for hate speech or abuse to spread. Snapchat is designed differently than traditional social media. The app is designed around the camera to create a way for people to communicate more meaningfully and authentically, and with their real friends and loved ones, rather than people that they don’t know. 

Snapchat does not offer an open news feed where unvetted publishers or individuals have an opportunity to broadcast hate or abusive content. Our Discover platform  for news and entertainment, and our Spotlight platform  for the community’s best Snaps, are curated and moderated environments. This means that content in Discover or Spotlight is provided either by our professional media partners, who agree to abide by strict Content Guidelines, or is user-generated content that is pre-moderated using human review, prior to being surfaced to large groups of Snapchatters. And Snapchat does not enable public comments which can facilitate abuse.

We have also made clear that we will not promote accounts that are linked to people who incite racism, whether they do so on or off our platform, most notably when first taking the decision to stop promoting President Trump’s account on Discover in June of 2020.

These guardrails help keep activity that violates our policies  from public areas of our platform. In 2018, Snap signed onto the European Commission’s Code of Conduct on hate speech, which, as part of its oversight process, collects reports from 39 NGOs specializing in reporting online hate. In the Commission’s two most recent reports on compliance with the code, there were zero reports of hate speech on Snapchat. Our own transparency report shows that, for the UK during the latest six month reporting period, we took action against 6,734 accounts. The vast majority of this content concerned reported private Snaps, not on public content areas -- reducing any wider impact. 

We also work hard to combat illegal and harmful activity on the private communications side of Snapchat. We provide easy-to-use in-app reporting tools where Snapchatters can notify us about any illegal or harmful activity. Our global, 24/7 Trust & Safety team reviews reports and takes appropriate action against violating accounts. The team is trained to identify a variety of signals when it comes to racist language, including the use of emojis to represent racial slurs or stereotypes. We keep abreast of the use of emojis and other forms of expression such as text based captions to understand emerging trends that reflect potential abuse, and use this insight to constantly evolve our policies in this area.

There is of course more that we can do, including to educate our community, and we are currently working on a programme to elevate black British stories through the power of augmented reality. Our first initiative earlier this year was an augmented reality (AR) experience designed in partnership with Kick It Out and a collective of black creatives called Kugali to commemorate four of England's greatest black footballers.

Ultimately, there is no place on Snapchat for discrimination, racism or abuse. We will keep working hard to prevent this content from surfacing, and to take quick and effective action when it does occur.

-Henry Turnbull, Head of Public Policy UK & Nordics

Supporting the UK Government with its national vaccination drive

UK

It’s great to share our work with the United Kingdom (UK) government to support the UK National Health Service’s (NHS) ‘Every Vaccination Gives Us Hope’ campaign.  

Snapchat reaches over 90% of 13 to 24 year olds in the UK, and with our community playing such a key part of the lives of young people, it’s vital that it is a source of accurate and trusted resources so they can stay safe, healthy and informed. 

As the COVID-19 vaccine is now available to all adults over the age of 18 in the UK, it’s important for Snapchatters to have access to trusted and accurate information  With that in mind, we have expanded ‘Here For You’ - our in-app mental health and wellbeing resource - dedicated to the latest Coronavirus guidance to include expert resources from the NHS about the vaccine.

In addition, we have launched creative tools in collaboration with the UK Government - including stickers, lenses and filters - available for Snapchatters to use that allow them to share the latest guidance from the NHS and encourage Snapchatters to share their vaccine status with friends and family.

Finally, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Snap Star account, Snapchatters submitted questions to be answered by medical experts Dr. Kiren Collison, the interim Deputy Medical Director for Primary Care for NHS England and Dr. Karen Raj, a doctor with the NHS. The Q&A sessions are available to watch on the Prime Minister’s profile.

We continue to explore new ways we can collaborate with credible partners to help support the health and wellbeing of our Snapchat community.

To learn more about the vaccine in the U.K, please visit: www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine 

- Stephen Collins, Sr. Director of Public Policy

Le dernier rapport sur la transparence de Snap

Snap Transparency

Chez Snap, notre objectif est de concevoir des produits et de construire une technologie qui nourrit et soutient les vraies amitiés dans un environnement sain, sûr et amusant. Nous travaillons constamment à améliorer notre savoir-faire, de nos politiques et nos Règles communautaires aux outils de prévention, de détection et de sanction contre les contenus nocifs et les initiatives qui aident à éduquer et à renforcer notre communauté. 

Nous nous engageons à fournir une plus de transparence sur la prévalence des contenus qui enfreignent nos directives, la façon dont nous faisons respecter nos politiques, la façon dont nous répondons aux demandes d'information provenant des gouvernements et des instances judiciaires et où nous cherchons à fournir plus des analyses plus détaillées à l'avenir. Nous publions des rapports sur la transparence deux fois par an pour fournir un aperçu de ces efforts et nous nous engageons également à rendre ces rapports plus complets et utiles aux nombreuses parties prenantes qui tiennent profondément à la sécurité et à la transparence en ligne.

Aujourd'hui, nous publions notre rapport sur la transparence pour le deuxième semestre de l'année 2020, qui couvre la période du 1er au 31 décembre de cette année-là, que vous pouvez lire plus en détail ici. Comme pour nos rapports précédents, il partage les données concernant les violations à l'échelle mondiale pendant cette période ; le nombre de contenus signalés que nous avons reçu et sanctionné en fonctions de différentes catégories de violations ; la façon dont nous avons répondu aux demandes des gouvernements et des instances judiciaires ; nos sanctions ventilées par pays.

Dans le cadre de nos efforts continus pour améliorer nos efforts de transparence, ce rapport comprend également plusieurs nouveaux éléments. Pour la première fois, nous partageons notre taux de vues en infraction (TVI) qui est le pourcentage de tous les Snaps (ou les vues) qui avaient un contenu en infraction avec nos Règles. Pendant cette période, notre TVI a été de 0,08 %, ce qui signifie que sur les 10 000 vues de contenu sur Snap, huit avait un contenu qui enfreignait nos Règles. Chaque jour, plus de cinq milliards de Snaps sont créés grâce à l'appareil photo de Snapchat. Au cours du deuxième semestre de l'année 2020, nous avons sanctionné 5 543 281 éléments de contenu qui étaient en infraction avec nos Règles. 

De plus, notre rapport partage de nouvelles analyses sur notre système de sanctions contre les fausses informations à l'échelle mondiale, un effort particulièrement important comme le monde continue de lutter contre une pandémie mondiale et les efforts pour porter atteinte aux institutions démocratiques. Pendant cette période, nous avons pris des mesures contre 5 841 éléments de contenu et des comptes pour violation de nos Règles interdisant la propagation de la désinformation et des théories du complot qui peuvent causer préjudice. 

Nous avons toujours cru que lorsqu'il s'agit de contenus nocifs, il ne suffit pas de penser aux politiques et aux sanctions, les plateformes doivent penser à leur architecture fondamentale et à la conception de leur produit. Dans l'ensemble de notre application, Snap limite la viralité, qui élimine les incitations pour le contenu nocif et sensationnaliste et les opportunités d'organisation. Notre rapport partage plus de détails sur nos décisions conceptionnelles de notre produit pour promouvoir les actualités et les informations factuelles aux Snapchatters. 

À l'avenir, nous concentrerons nos efforts pour fournir des analyses plus détaillées dans les prochains rapports, comme l'élargissement des sous-catégories de données en infraction. Nous évaluons constamment notre façon de renforcer la totalité de nos efforts pour lutter contre les contenus nocifs et les personnes malveillantes, et nous remercions les nombreux partenaires de sécurité et de sûreté qui nous aident toujours à nous améliorer.

Celebrating the 26th Amendment by Helping 18 Year Olds Register to Vote

26th Amendment Graphic

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the ratification of the 26th Amendment -- the amendment that gave 18-year-olds the right to vote in all US elections and outlawed age discrimination among eligible voters. 

At Snap, we believe that one of the most powerful forms of self-expression is exercising the right to vote and participating in our democracy. Snapchat reaches 90% of 13-24 year olds in the United States, giving us an incredible opportunity to provide our youngest voters with tools that make it easier to participate in our democracy. 

Since 2016, we’ve invested in native to mobile civic products and partnerships designed to tackle challenges to voter registration, education, and participation to help make voting easier. We’ve learned that supporting the next generation of leaders needs to be a year-round effort - not just for high-profile election seasons.

That’s why in 2018, we launched a feature that automatically prompts Snapchatters on their 18th birthday to register to vote. Each month an average of 400,000 Snapchatters in the United States receive a notification to register to vote as they celebrate their birthday.

As part of a research collaboration with Tufts’ University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Snap found that college campuses are significant entry points for first-time voters, but only 36% of 18 to 23-year-olds are enrolled in college full time, which means nearly two-thirds don’t have the same civic and political engagement opportunities. Given our unique reach among young Americans, Snap is able to help bridge the gap in access to civic resources. 

Registering voters on their 18th birthday is just one step towards empowering Snapchatters to be lifelong civic participants and make their voices heard. 

Before the 2020 US election, we launched a collection of mobile-first tools with support from TurboVote and BallotReady to help Snapchatters register to vote, understand their ballot, request absentee ballots and make a plan to vote by-mail or in-person, learn about voter protection resources like the Election Protection hotline, and help their friends vote by sharing Snaps with educational filters and lenses.

We continue to work to inspire the next generation of Americans to engage in a lifetime of self-expression through civic engagement year-round - and do our part to help deliver on the promise of the 26th Amendment.

- Sofia Gross, Head of Policy Partnerships and Social Impact

Providing More Ad Choices and Controls for Our Community

Blog Asset

Snapchat is a space for self-expression, discovery, and exploration. Advertising is one of the ways we keep Snapchat open and accessible through curated high-quality content, product innovation, and dedicated community safety moderation. We want to deliver the best experience for our community, and we want the ads we show to be fun, interesting, and relevant to Snapchatters! 

To enable this, we are excited to share some in-app features and educational resources that give Snapchatters even more control over their advertising and data use preferences.

Ad Preferences

To help Snapchat deliver the most relevant, useful ads to Snapchatters, we let advertisers and other partners show Snapchatters ads in the service they are using based on information collected on other websites and services. If they prefer not to have ads shown to them based on this information, Snapchatters can easily adjust their Ad Preferences in App Settings. To learn more about the different Ad Preferences take a look here.

Ad Topic Choices 

If a Snapchatter doesn’t feel comfortable seeing ads from a particular advertising topic, we make it easy for them to let us know. We now offer the ability to opt out of sensitive ad topics like alcohol and political advertising, and will soon support this functionality for gambling ads too. 

Report Ad 

When a Snapchatter sees an ad, they may want to report something about it when they view it. Snapchatters can easily report if they like or dislike the content, or if they find it fraudulent or concerning. Our dedicated team at Snap is on the clock and takes action on reports that violate our policies! 

Hide Ad 

For individual ads that Snapchatters find irrelevant, inappropriate, or simply annoying, they can now easily Hide Ads from appearing for them in the future.

Report Ad / Hide Ad

Snapchatters can Report or Hide Ads easily

Educational Resources About App Tracking Transparency

As a part of our Safety Snapshot digital literacy content series, we’ve provided our community with a new Discover episode to help Snapchatters understand Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT is a new privacy framework designed to provide consumers with the ability to select how they want their personal data handled by apps through an in-app prompt. The educational episode outlines the fundamentals of how the prompt works, how to make their desired data use selection, and the impact their selection has on their ad experience on Snapchat. 

What’s next?

We will continue to prioritize privacy and choice for the Snapchat community through easy and transparent advertising preferences, and pertinent resources on safety and privacy topics. The tools and resources above represent just some of our many efforts and innovations to keep our community safe and informed. We hope these and future updates will drive awareness about the advertising and data use choices our community can make, and to encourage Snapchatters to make the choices they feel are best.

Asked & Answered: The White House Answers Snapchatters COVID-19 Questions 

White House Covid 2

Today, we are launching a new effort with The White House to help Snapchatters answer common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Through this partnered Lens, Snapchatters can hear directly from President Biden, Vice President Harris, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett about the questions that matter most, like “Why should I get vaccinated?” and “Will the vaccine protect me against variants?” 

Snapchat reaches 90% of 13 to 23 year olds in the United States and throughout each phase of the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve provided Snapchatters with accurate and trusted resources to stay safe, healthy, and informed. We’ve done that through a variety of new initiatives like launching an in-app mental health resource, Here for You, partnering with the Ad Council on in-app awareness campaigns, and prioritizing verified organizations on our Discover platform, including the White House COVID-19 Taskforce and World Health Organization.

From our earliest days, we designed Snapchat differently to prevent unvetted content from being able to go viral. Our Community Guidelines strictly prohibit the promotion of false information and conspiracy theories and our Discover section offers news, information, and facts from credible publishers and partners—like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization. 

As we enter this next phase of the COVID-19 recovery, we continue to explore new ways we can collaborate with credible and trusted partners to help support the health and wellbeing of our Snapchat community. To learn more about our ongoing efforts, visit: snap.com/en-US/safety-and-impact.

- Sofia Gross, Head of Policy Partnerships and Social Impact

Releasing Our Second CitizenSnap Report

CitizenSnap

Editor’s note: Snap CEO, Evan Spiegel sent the following memo to all Snap team members on May 17. 

Team, 

Today we’re releasing our second annual CitizenSnap Report. The report outlines our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts, which focus on operating our business in a responsible way for our team, our Snapchat community, our partners, and the broader world we all share.

Our report also introduces our first climate strategy, to do our part to take action at the pace and scale that is needed. As part of this effort, we have now become a carbon neutral company, past, present and future; we have adopted science-based emissions reduction targets; and we have committed to purchasing 100% renewable electricity for our facilities globally. Going forward, we will keep evolving our climate programs to keep up with best practices.

Today we’re also introducing a revamped Code of Conduct, which complements our ESG work. The new Code offers our team members an ethical decision-making framework designed to help us think broadly about what it means to do the right thing for all of our stakeholders.

We believe it’s a moral imperative to work towards creating a healthy and safe society, and we know it matters to the hundreds of millions of Snapchatters who use our services every day. It’s also good for business. As our CitizenSnap report lays out, we have both made significant strides forward, and know there is so much more to do, and ways we can improve. 

All of these efforts are a reflection of the hard work and passion of so many teams across our company, during an especially challenging year. I am so grateful for how far we have come -- and energized by the work that lies ahead. 

Evan