MPs Grill Snapchat Over ‘Addictive’ Streaks Feature
Instant messaging app Snapchat has come under scrutiny from MPs over its potentially addictive feature ‘streaks’.
The company behind Snapchat has told MPs it may consider making changes to its ‘friendship streaks’, which has faced criticism over its potentially addictive nature.
A number of MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee are currently exploring the addictive nature of social and gaming platforms.
Appearing before the DCMS, Snap Inc executives said they would “revisit” the feature. A Snapchat streak is when users send direct snaps back and forth for several consecutive days, the recipient must respond within 24 hours to maintain the streak.
The app records and rewards streaks with a variety of emojis depending upon the length of the streak. The longer they continue the better the streak is considered.
Due to the nature of streaks, some users will ask their friends to sign into their accounts if they are unable to just to keep the streak going.
The company’s senior director of public policy, Stephen Collins, and Will Scougal, its creative strategy director, have both tried to wave-off the importance of the feature, saying it was not an integral part of the app.
However, committee chairman Damian Collins has likened streaks to likes on Facebook and re-tweets on Twitter.
Questioning the Snapchat executives, he asked whether parents who felt that the feature was putting “undue pressure” on their children could remove them. In response, they said no, but pledged to “take the thoughts of the committee on board”.
Stephen Collins said: “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 were also expressed concern over Snapchat’s age verification system. Snap Inc admitted to the DCMS that the system was not robust enough to stop children under the age of 13 from accessing the app.
The firm was also grilled over the rise of a new phenomenon known as “Snapchat dysphoria” brought on by the use of filters and lenses that alter the body and facial features.
The pair responded that filters were simply “a fun way” of overlaying reality, and that “more research was needed across the whole industry” on the societal effects of beauty apps and filters.