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Not impossible to have ads without mistruths, Snapchat says

Snapchat says own policies on political advertising shield it from calls to Capitol Hill

Dubai: Snap Inc took a strong stance on privacy policies and political advertisement on social media as rivals Facebook and Twitter continue to face backlash for these issues.

The parent company and developer behind Snapchat, the messaging and social media app, said that while it accepts political ads on its platform, they must adhere to certain rules. Snap also manually reviews all its ads and runs them through an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software before putting them out on the app.

Jeremi Gorman, Snap’s global chief business officer, said that it was very much possible to handle a large number of ads while also ensuring there are no “mistruths” in them.

“We believe that given the demographic we serve, it’s critical …” she said. “To take the other way and say there is no political advertisement is somewhat irresponsible to our age cohort because they deserve to understand the issues and what politicians are saying, so stifling those voices is equally challenging, so we take the middle road …”

Gorman’s comments come just weeks after Twitter said it will ban all political advertising on its platform globally. Twitter chief Jack Dorsey said that political messaging should be “earned, not bought”, and that paying for reach “has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle”.

Facebook, in comparison, implied that unless an ad presents “an imminent risk of harm” to viewers, it will not take that down. While chief Mark Zuckerberg stuck to saying that “lying is bad”, he has repeatedly defended Facebook’s decision to keep political advertising, on the basis of free speech.

That debate on political advertising has been ongoing since 2016 when presidential elections were abuzz in the US, and many pointed that Facebook was posting ads with inaccurate information, and from foreign agents deliberately attempting to fuel hate speech and misinformation.

Facebook has also been under scrutiny, both from top politicians and from its own users, for privacy concerns, after news came out that it was harvesting data and sending it to third parties. Those concerns spread to just about every app and website, as pressure grows for tech companies to do more to protect their users’ data.

Jacob Andreou, vice-president of product at Snap Inc, said the very design of Snapchat, which automatically deletes messages, pictures, and videos once they are viewed by the recipient, helps ensure privacy. “We think it’s very weird that a lot of the internet chose to save a permanent transcript of every conversation that happens,” Andreou told Gulf News in an interview in Dubai. “That struck us as a very odd decision in the beginning when we were thinking about how to design our messaging service.”

He said that all user data on Snapchat is deleted, and there is no stockpiling of data.

That strategy and view, Gorman said, have allowed Snap “to exist in that world where we’re not consistently getting called to Capitol Hill or whatever it may be for privacy violations.”