I don't really understand Snapchat, and the layout of the app itself has always been rather confusing. But it's popular with the youth of today, and it's being scrutinised as a result. But rather than being scrutinised for data breaches, trying to ignore the spread of fake news or literal nazism, Snapchat is under some fire for its 'streaks' feature which some MPs reckon is too addictive for the kids to handle.
If you don't know anything about Snapchat, then the idea of a 'streak' is obviously going to be totally foreign to you. Basically you start a streak when you interact with your Snapchat friends for three days in a row. Keep interacting at least once every 24 hours and that streak increases, and it's this thing MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee are concerned about. When they're not writing sternly worded letters to Mark Zuckerberg the committee can be found investigating other things, and at the moment they're worried about the addictive nature of social and gaming platforms.
Committee chairman Damian Collins has concerns that streaks can put "undue pressure" on kids, saying that "it seems that the value of a relationship could be measured in the length of a streak." He also wanted to know whether parents of these kids could then remove streaks altogether.
To its credit Snap is willing to consider those concerns, and promised to take the committee's findings on board, with Stephen Collins, senior director of Snapchat's public policy, saying:
"Streaks were meant to be a fun thing. We have reduced them in size by 30%, in line with recommendations from the Children's Commission, but we are always looking at whether we should sunset a particular feature and we will revisit it."
MPs also grilled the company on age verification, and the topic of keeping under-13s off the service, with one claiming he had signed up using a 12-year old birthday. Snapchat said it was working with the Home Office on more robust age verification, but noted kids always have ways to get round parental controls. On the topic of 'Snapchat dysmoprhia' and claims filters and lenses can encourage depression and body issues amongst girls, the company simply said those features were intended to be fun, and "more research was needed across the whole industry" of beauty apps and filters.
Nice to see a social media company actually respond to politicians, for once. Whether Snapchat will actually take these concerns on board is another story, but at least it's not making up excuses like some of the others. [BBC News]