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Snapchat ex-employees say past editorial practices were racially biased

Published On : Wednesday Jun 10 2020

Snapchat ex-employees say past editorial practices were racially biased

But former employees on the content team told Mashable the company didn’t always embrace the fight for racial justice so vehemently. One claimed their manager said a Men’s Fashion Week story featured too many black faces. Another said their editors thought stories on black entertainers were too niche. Overall, they described a culture from 2015 to 2018 in which they had to advocate for black representation in the face of racial bias from managers.

“It was constantly a battle of basically arguing with people about their whitewashed views of what good content was,” one ex-employee said. “Some days we felt it was our job to be fighting for these voices, and other days it was too exhausting to even put up that fight.”


In 2016, Snap came under fire for racially insensitive filters: one “whitewashed” skin, another gave users slanted eyes. Yet another turned people into Bob Marley, effectively putting them in blackface. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement had been fighting police brutality and racism since 2012.

In this climate, some members of the “Our Stories” team, which picked snaps for stories in Snapchat’s Discover tab, said they felt unsupported and marginalized by their managers, who made decisions within a convoluted organizational structure.

Mashable spoke with five former Snapchat employees who worked on the content team between 2014 and 2018. Four of them requested anonymity for privacy and professional reasons. The anonymous ex-employees were let go in company-wide layoffs in 2018, and received around three months severance.

Still more members of the Snap community voiced their support and corroborated some experiences on Twitter.

Snap said it’s investigating most of the instances of alleged racial insensitivity presented to the company by Mashable, and directly addressed allegations by Diana Baik, an entertainment producer who said that in 2017 a manager asked her to essentially replace snaps of black people with people of different races.

“We really appreciate Diana speaking up about her experience at Snap,” the company said. “What Diana describes doesn’t reflect our values or aspirations as a team to provide content that reflects the diversity of the Snapchat community. We are investigating these allegations and will take the necessary actions to make things right.”

What Baik and the other ex-employees describe is starkly different from what Snap says its current policies are. Today, Snap regularly features Black Lives Matter content, and says it has committed to making its Discover tab free of racist content — including from President Donald Trump.

The company also hired a VP of diversity and inclusion in 2019. And this year, Evan Spiegel sent a memo to employees publicly supporting Black Lives Matter and even calling for the creation of a reparations commission, which was characterized by news reports as one of the most progressive stances in the tech world.

However, ex-employees say that recent progress doesn’t mean that Snapchat’s previous missteps should be absolved, or forgotten.

“I think Snapchat’s come a long way since the time we specifically worked there, but with that being said, I don’t think that how things were handled at the company should be brushed under the rug,” the same ex-employee first quoted in this story said. “We want them to see that there are problems, and they need to be fixed.”

Friendly Faces
The content team covered daily life and big events with “Our Stories” built from snaps submitted by users (which were partially filtered through AI) and Snapchat employees. The former employees interviewed for this story say the process became fraught when it came to showcasing black people and black-themed events and holidays.

In one instance, an ex-employee said they received pushback from their manager when they wanted to use a photograph of the popular dance duo Ayo and Teo as the lead tile image for a curated story about dancing. Ayo and Teo are black, and wear face masks (even before COVID-19). The ex-employee said their manager was dubious, and said they wanted to use a “friendlier face” as the lead image.

“[The manager] didn’t know who they were, and made it a really big issue as to, ‘Why are we picking these people’ to be the image of the story,” the ex-employee said. “At the time, they had millions of followers, as they do now. But she took that image as not being a friendly face: two young black men in masks.”

Baik corroborated this incident, and Snap said it is under investigation…..Read More>>

Source:- mashable


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