Snapchat’s Attempt to Protect Young Users From Third-Party Apps Falls Short

Snapchat’s Attempt to Protect Young Users From Third-Party Apps Falls Short

Some Snap Kit platform developers have skirted guidelines meant to make the app safer for children.

A new report from TechCrunch released Tuesday found that some third-party apps that connect to users’ Snap accounts have not been updated according to new guidelines announced in March. The restrictions, which target anonymous messaging and friend-finding apps, are meant to increase child safety. However, the investigation found a number of apps either ignore the new regulations or falsely claim to be integrated with Snapchat.

The Santa Monica-based social media company announced the changes after facing two separate lawsuits related to teen suicide allegedly caused by the app. Over 1,500 developers integrate Snap features like the camera and Bitmojis. Snap originally claimed the update would not affect many apps.

Developers had 30 days to revise their software, but the investigation found that some apps, such as the anonymous Q&A app Sendit, were granted an extension. Others blatantly avoided the changes—the anonymous messaging app HMU, which is now meant for adult users, is still available to users "9+" in the App Store. Certain apps that have been banned from Snap, like Intext, still advertise Snapchat integration.

“First and foremost, we put the privacy and safety of our community first and expect the products built by our developer community to adhere to that standard in addition to bringing fun and positive experiences to people,” Director of Platform Partnerships Alston Cheek told TechCrunch.

The news is a blow to Snap’s recent efforts to cast itself as a responsible social media platform. The company recently announced Colleen DeCourcy would take over as the company’s new chief creative officer and CEO Evan Spiegel to recently made a a generous personal donation to graduates of Otis College of Art and Design. The social media company currently faces a lawsuit from a teenager who claims it has not done enough to protect minors from sexual exploitation. In April, 44 attorney generals sent a letter to Snap and TikTok urging the companies to strengthen parental controls. (Disclosure: Snap is an investor in dot.LA.)

Lawmakers are considering new policies that would hold social media companies accountable for the content on their platforms. One such bill would require social media companies to share data with independent researchers.

Snapchat recently rolled out augmented reality shopping features and influencer-led original content to grow its younger base of users.

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David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.