A woman works to clear debris in her apartment after the building was heavily damaged during ongoing military operations in Kyiv, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Anton Skyba for The Globe and Mail
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With escalating misinformation around the Russia and Ukraine war on social media, Snapchat has done a good job of curbing false information than its social media counterparts. Snapchat’s founder pledged $15 billion in aid for Ukraine’s support. How did Snapchat help? The app turned off its heat maps which gave an idea of how many people are concentrated in an area. Snapchat limited it’s services only for communications amongst friends and family but banned all ad-sales information and restricted- use of featured news on app’s public forum. Experts have claimed that app is designed to make inaccurate information to not spread quickly.
Snapchat and it’s Ukrainian Roots
Snapchat is a young app founded recently in 2011. The text messaging multimedia app allows users to communicate through messages and images which disappear within a few hours of sending. Looksery, the company that created the groundwork for Snap’s virtual reality platform, was started in Ukraine, and more than 300 of Snap’s most creative and talented staff has called the country home. This is also one of the reasons that founders felt more compelled to help Ukrainians in the times of crisis. Not only snapchat but other popularly renowned apps like PayPal, Grammarly, WhatsApp have been established by Ukrainian founders. A firm based in Ukraine devised masking technology in the app. Some of its offices are based in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Snapchat’s quick- response
To secure the people of Ukraine, Snapchat went onto announcing the temporarily switching off its “heat map” feature for Ukraine, to avoid people being located by Russian forces. The heat map feature displays a color code which gives a clear idea of how many people are in a particular area. This would make Ukrainian users vulnerable to Russian Intelligence. So, creators considered it in the best interests of Ukrainian citizens to stay safe from Russian forces. Not only this, but it would also keep the armies of both sides safe by keeping their locations ghosted from exploiting this information. However, the app has kept its communication channels open in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. It claimed that this is the only way people can stay connected with their near and dear ones. Unlike other social media apps which completely banned the services in conflict- zones leaving no form of communication exchange, Snap made a wiser move to let people stay- in- touch.
Snapchat and restricted information
As Snapchat’s roots are deeply connected with Ukrainians, they have taken rampant steps to protect the country at all costs. They have banned Russia from posting more ads leading to more money which could then be directed as they can fund the expenditures of Kremlin’s military. This indirect approach to cripple the Russian’s efforts in attacking Ukraine shows Snapchat’s solidarity with Ukraine’s government and the people. There has been no sign of unverified source and accounts from the snapchat. The technology feature used in snapchat allows minimal content- sharing and only with trusted accounts. Moreover, the app being more for one- on- one conversation rather than having public feed being constantly installed was helpful in slowing down the spread of disinformation.
Russia’s reactions and reactions of the World
Following the sanctions by international communities, banned businesses, and suspended social media accounts, Russia did not remain silent. It has reacted aggressively and gone as far as to say that they will make “Ross gram”, an Instagram version for Russians. Digital wars between Russia and Ukraine have increased drastically on all platforms including Facebook and Twitter. They have engaged into some sort of reel war which is very different from reality on the ground. All the posts offending Russia and defending Ukraine have become an online movement for people to express their emotions on the crisis.
The rest of the world has made their efforts in trying to curb information from Russian channels. This would divert the distorted news to take popular form. The war has raised many issues of International concerns, for instance microchip issues with war in Ukraine. Western powers have cut- off chips to be given to Kremlin for keeping the sanctity of the Ukrainians. United States and European nations are also afraid of possible cybersecurity issues which may arise because of this war. This urged tech giants to be careful about information being posted on their websites. The Russians are now turning to China for microchips and other resources as Russia faces sanctions from countries across the globe.
Snapchat proved to be one of the best apps during war times. Snapchat was quick in removing wrong information and keeping their technology updated. The masking technology made it harder for fake news to spread across the platform. They limited the participation of Russian ads in a timely manner. Other apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok have delayed their actions where misinformation became a challenge to contain. Their algorithms have been set in such a way so that it engages the audience with fake information and the apps continue to generate greater revenues.
Meet The Thought Leaders
Shreya Ravichandran was a consultant at McKinsey and Company, with a background in economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She loves problem-solving on social issues to make an impact on people's lives. She is currently working at The Antara Foundation as the Chief of staff to the founder, working on maternal and child health in rural India. She is also an avid musician and spends her free time experimenting different styles.
Meet the Authors (GGI Fellows)
Vidhi Bubna is a Member of the Board of Directors at Modern Diplomacy. Additionally, she is also President of the India Bhutan Bilateral Business Committee at WICCI - Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. A graduate of Ashoka University, Vidhi is currently pursuing an MA in Media and Communications at the City University of London.