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Snapchat Yanks Trump From Discover Feed, Prompting Swift Rebuke

Sarah Frier

(Bloomberg) -- Snap Inc. is no longer promoting U.S. President Donald Trump’s content in the news section of its Snapchat app, citing his posts on Twitter that threatened violence against protesters. The move prompted a sharp rebuke from Trump’s re-election campaign.

“We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover,” Snap said Wednesday in a statement. “Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

Trump’s Snapchat account remains publicly available, but the decision will affect his reach on the platform. While the president has 1.5 million followers, he received the most attention when Snapchat would display his posts in the Discover section, potentially reaching hundreds of millions of people who use the social-networking app. Snapchat will be particularly important for reaching young and first-time voters ahead of the 2020 election, with schools and other gathering places potentially closed.

“Snapchat is trying to rig the 2020 election,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Snapchat hates that so many of their users watch the President’s content and so they are actively engaging in voter suppression. If you’re a conservative, they do not want to hear from you, they do not want you to vote. They view you as a deplorable and they do not want you to exist on their platform.” Snap shares fell as much as 4.3% on Wednesday.

Trump recently posted messages on Twitter and Facebook that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd. That prompted tech companies to weigh if the president broke their rules about inciting violence. It has also sparked a heated debate about how social media rules should be applied to world leaders versus regular users.

Twitter Inc. put a warning label on Trump’s post, while Facebook Inc. did nothing, standing by its decision even after employees protested publicly.

Snap’s move was based on another Trump tweet from May 30 in which he warned that if protesters came close to breaching the White House fence “they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and ominous weapons.” The president frequently reposts his tweets to Snapchat, though the warning about the dogs was not reposted.

Snap decided that, unlike Twitter and Facebook, it’s not attempting to be a neutral town square. The Discover page uses a mix of manual and algorithmic curation, while Twitter and Facebook rely on automation based on data about viral sharing and other measures of popularity. Snap’s decision was reported earlier by the New York Times.

(Updates with Trump campaign comment in fourth paragraph.)

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