BYU human development and non-profit management graduate Malissa Richardson started a petition, #NoThanksSnapchat, to give users the option to opt out of sexually explicit stories and headlines. This petition has received over 27,000 signatures, according to Change.org.
“I don’t want people I love and my siblings to see this kind of content,” Richardson said. “I thought I should do something about it.”
BYU media arts graduate Ryan Parker works as a team lead at Wallaroo Media, a digital marketing agency in Provo. He said he thinks it wouldn’t be hard for Snapchat to include that feature.
“If you have the option to subscribe then it shouldn’t be too hard to block also,” Parker said.
Parker said other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have options to block content, if the viewer believes it is explicit.
The petition has an uphill battle to fight, according to Parker. He said one reason is because there are 150 million daily users on Snapchat.
“If Snapchat stands to lose 20,000 users, that’s nothing to them,” Parker said. “Even if the petition gets to 1 million users, that’s still next to nothing.”
Blocking unwanted content really comes down to a battle between advertisers and users for Snapchat’s attention, according to Parker. He said companies pay a minimum of $50,000 a day to have their story on Snapchat.
“If Snapchat tells the companies ‘Hey, we’re letting users opt out and not see your stuff anymore,’ they’re not going to like that,” Parker said.
Parker said Snapchat is about to become a publicly traded company. He said this could serve as an advantage to the signers of the petition.
“If this petition could get big enough and causes a bunch of negative publicity for Snapchat, potentially their stock price could go down,” Parker said. “That could happen and Snapchat would have no choice but to add the feature to keep shareholders happy.”
Richardson has already generated some negative publicity for Snapchat with the petition. Kyra Hermann said she feels some stories on Snapchat are degrading to women. She also said she signed the petition in concern for the future of her family.
“I think a lot about my husband and my son (as he grows older),” Hermann said. “It makes me feel uncomfortable that my son would be exposed to this kind of material on a daily basis.”
Hermann feels the stories are sexually explicit and could lead to an addiction to pornography. She said she knows pornography can strain relationships.
BYU graphic design freshman Teagan Pitcher said he has struggled with pornography since he was 13 years old.
Pitcher said he feels there is definitely sexually inappropriate content on Snapchat. He said the Utah Coalition Against Pornography ranked Snapchat in its top 10 companies or websites that show sexual content in 2015.
Pitcher has followed programs such as Fight The New Drug, a program whose mission is to inform people about the effects of pornography, to help himself overcome his struggle.
“It’s been really important for me to have as many outlets as possible for people to have opportunities to learn more about the addiction, what it entails, and how to overcome it,” Pitcher said.
Fight The New Drug has posted in its blog about Richardson’s petition with a link to sign the petition. Richardson said Fight The New Drug doesn’t typically share petitions on their website, but she knows the CEO and reached out to him about her petition.
“Fight The New Drug had over 1,000 shares of the petition on their Facebook page. They were so awesome to get the word out that way,” Richardson said.
While several people have supported the petition, others have been critical about it,
according to Richardson.
“People have said pornography isn’t even harmful, or will attack the fact that I’m LDS,” Richardson said.
Richardson has tried to shake the criticism off and remains hopeful that Snapchat will make a change. This ultimately comes down to how much the petition trends on social media, according to Richardson.
“If Snapchat sees the petition negatively affecting their image, that’s when they’re going to start doing something about it,” Richardson said.
Parker said Snapchat’s choice may come down to whether or not it wants to keep advertisers happy or if its users who want the opt out option are more important.
The petition has grown quickly since its origin. In 24 hours, it gained 8,000 of its hoped for 10,000 signatures. It has reached every state in the United States, 40 countries, and six continents. The new goal is to reach 100,000 signatures.