Rihanna condemns Snapchat over domestic violence ad

Singers denounces Snapchat ad asking: would you rather hit her or Chris Brown?

Rihanna:  accused Snapchat of shaming domestic abuse victims. Photograph: Marin/AFP,Getty Images

Rihanna: accused Snapchat of shaming domestic abuse victims. Photograph: Marin/AFP,Getty Images

 

Snapchat users noticed an ad that asked whether they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown”. On Thursday, the pop star took to Instagram, a direct competitor for Snapchat, to criticise the ad for making light of domestic violence. Stock prices for Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat, sank by 4 percent.

“I’d love to call it ignorance but I know you ain’t that dumb!” Rihanna wrote in a statement, posted to her Instagram Stories. “You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it!!! This isn’t about my personal feelings, cause I don’t have much of them ... but all the women, children and men that have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet ... . you let us down! Shame on you.”

In 2009, Brown was charged after after he hit, choked and bit Rihanna, and tried to push her out of the car. He eventually pleaded guilty to felony assault and received five years of probation.

The singer criticised the company in her statement, saying: “Now Snapchat I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess!”

The ad sparked a backlash on social media, including from Chelsea Clinton, who : “Awful that any company would approve this.”

“This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service,” a spokesperson for Snapchat said. “We are so sorry we made the terrible mistake of allowing it through our review process. We are investigating how that happened so that we can make sure it never happens again.”

The ad was for a game called “Would You Rather?!,” which was created last year by Daniel Lulic, a developer who previously designed two mobile “Truth or Dare” games. In Apple’s App Store, several reviewers criticised “Would You Rather?!” for posing questions about rape. “I am very disturbed with one of the would you rather questions,” wrote one user. “It’s under humor and it says Would you rather: Get raped by a llama or Rape a llama. No! Rape is NOT a joke!”

The advertiser has now been blocked from Snapchat, according to the company.

Rihanna has previously spoken about being a domestic violence victim, saying in one interview in 2015 that she resented having to continually discuss it: “It’s not a subject to sweep under the rug, so I can’t just dismiss it like it wasn’t anything, or I don’t take it seriously. But, for me, and anyone who’s been a victim of domestic abuse, nobody wants to even remember it … So to talk about it and say it once, much less 200 times, is like … I have to be punished for it?”

The singer slammed the company in her statement, saying: “Now Snapchat I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess!”

The ad sparked a backlash on social media, including from Chelsea Clinton, who : “Awful that any company would approve this.”

The scandal comes at a particularly difficult time for Snap, which has faced anger over a controversial redesign – and experienced a $1.3bn drop in market value after the celebrity Kylie Jenner tweeted that she was no longer using the app.

In February, Snapchat opened its advertising platform so third parties can build software to buy ads, further automating the company’s advertising system. In its guidelines, Snapchat says that “all ads are subject to our review and approval.” The official policy prohibits an array of content including anything that is “shocking, sensational or disrespectful.”

This most recent debacle sent the stock price of Snap Inc., which owns Snapchat, down more than 4 percent. The price jumped last month after an earnings report that exceeded expectations for the fourth quarter of 2017. Snapchat has been struggling since it went public last March, reporting dismal financial results last year for three consecutive quarters. Last week, Snap Inc. announced that it will be cutting 120 engineers.

The company relies on a patina of cool to keep its young user base engaged, even as other mobile apps with similar or competing features have risen in popularity. Influencers play a large role in Snapchat’s branding, and the stock fluctuates based on their behaviour.

Last month, Kylie Jenner, who has marketed her cosmetics line on the platform and is one of its most popular users, tweeted, “does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me ... ugh this is so sad.” Her comment has been liked more than 377,000 times. The day of her tweet, the company’s stock dropped 7 percent.

The problematic ad points to a larger issue for social media companies: advertising that receives little to no editorial oversight. This is a central challenge for social media companies, and the reason racist content can flourish on the platforms, and how Russian agents could buy advertising on Facebook and Twitter in attempts to sway the 2016 election. Last September, ProPublica found that advertisers on Facebook could directly target content at users who were interested in topics such as “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” – New York Times Service, Guardian Service