LONDON: Snapchat has unveiled new safety features in its app that are designed to enhance protections and safeguards for teenage users.
Taking cues from similar features introduced by other platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat said the latest tools make it more difficult for strangers to contact young people, help ensure a more age-appropriate user experience, combat accounts that promote inappropriate content, and enhance the educational resources available to teenagers.
The platform said it will also introduce additional resources for parents and families, including a new website and a series of “explainer” videos on YouTube, which will begin to appear in the next few weeks.
“From the start, Snapchat was designed to be different, built as an antidote to traditional social platforms, prioritizing the safety, privacy and well-being of our community, especially our younger audiences,” Georg Wolfart, head of public policy at Snap Inc., said on Monday.
“A huge share of our audience comes from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, and we continue to work on creating a better online ecosystem that also offers safe avenues for young Snapchatters.”
The changes include the addition of in-app warnings when a teenager receives a friend request from someone with whom they have no mutual contacts, and stronger rules for friending, including a requirement that users between the ages of 13 and 17 have several mutual friends before they are visible in each other’s searches and friend suggestions.
A new “strikes” system will be used to remove accounts that promote age-inappropriate content. Users will be able to report suspicious content and behavior, and accounts that repeatedly break the rules will be banned.
New in-app educational resources across the two main types of Snapchat content, Stories and Spotlight, explain key online risks to young people and their parents, and share helpline contact numbers and resources.
The new features have been added amid growing pressure on social media platforms from politicians, educators and parents to protect young users from unwanted adult attention, drug dealers, and other inappropriate content.
Snapchat recently found itself at the center of controversy as a result of a BBC investigation that found drug gangs were exploiting the platform to target young people.
While the platform has experienced a decline in user numbers in recent years, it continues to rank as one of the most popular social media platforms in the Middle East.
In an interview with Arab News in June, Abdulla Alhammadi, Snapchat’s regional business lead for the Saudi market, said the platform has more than 22 million active users in the Kingdom, more than 40 percent of whom are under the age of 25.
Last year, in collaboration with the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media, Snapchat introduced its Family Center parental-control features in the Kingdom. This year, it unveiled additional content controls that allow parents to protect their children by filtering out stories from publishers or creators flagged as “sensitive” or “suggestive.”