Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says social media companies must take responsibility instead of waiting for laws


CEO of Snap Inc. Evan Spiegel walks to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 07, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on Tuesday said that regulation is not a substitute for the moral responsibility that social media companies have over the content shared on their services.

“The important point to make is that regulation is not a substitute for moral responsibility and for business practices that support the health and well being of your community,” said Spiegel, speaking at the Wall Street Journal Live Conference.

Spiegel’s comments appeared to be a shot at rival Facebook, which has been wrapped in controversy over the past month after a former employee leaked numerous internal documents. Among those files were slides that showed Facebook was aware that its Instagram service was harmful to teenagers’ mental health, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In its responses to these documents, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Oct. 5 called on Congress to update internet regulations. In particular, Zuckerberg said Congress should determine what age teens should be allowed to use internet services, how tech companies should verify users’ ages and how companies should balance giving kids privacy while giving parents visibility to their children’s online activity.

But regulation happens far too late, Spiegel said on Tuesday.

“Regulation certainly may be necessary in some of these areas,” Spiegel said. “Other countries have made strides in that regard. But again, unless businesses are proactively promoting the health and well being of their community, regulators are always going to be playing catch up.”

No Snap Kids in the works

In response to the leaked documents and the public reaction, Facebook last month said it would pause its development of a version of Instagram designed for kids 13 and younger.

Asked if Snap had any plans to develop something similar, Spiegel said no, but he did say that the company is building a family center feature for parents and their children.

“We basically have a family center so that young people and their parents can use Snapchat together, so parents have more visibility into who their friends are [that they are] talking to on Snapchat, their privacy settings, and things like that,” Spiegel said. “That at least helps start a conversation between young people and their parents about what they’re experiencing on our service.”

Asked why Snap hasn’t experienced the same type of issues with teenagers’ mental health as Facebook and Instagram are dealing with, Spiegel said Snapchat is fundamentally different. When a user launches Snapchat on their phone, the app opens up to a camera rather than a feed of content from other users.

“Rather than opening up into a feed where you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people and whether or not they got likes or comments and things like that, you’re opening up into your own experience and prompted to express yourself and share and connect with your friends and family,” Spiegel said.

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