Snapchat accused of squeezing a gun safety group for money

'Mic' reports that an employee implied it would run pro-NRA ads alongside gun-control messages.

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A series of leaked emails reportedly suggest that Snapchat may have behaved questionably when dealing with a gun safety charity. Mic claims to have seen messages between the startup and the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety. It appears that the company's advertising sales team heavily implied that it would run pro-gun ads alongside Everytown's stories unless it paid $150,000.

The story goes that Everytown reached out to Snapchat at the start of 2016 to do something for National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Snapchat employee Rob Saliterman reportedly responded, saying that any advertising team-up would cost $150,000. In exchange for the cash, users would be able to show their support for the day using lenses and custom filters.

But at the same time, Snapchat's editorial team had contacted Everytown to develop a Snapchat News story for the event. Since the content would be broadcast as part of Snapchat's news feature, it wouldn't cost Everytown any money to participate. In addition, high-profile names like Senator Chuck Schumer and Kim Kardashian were apparently interested in participating.

In many media organizations, there is a "wall" between the advertising sales team and its editorial operations to ensure independence. Everytown opted to work with Snapchat's news team on the latter proposal, and so responded to (the unaware) Saliterman saying it wouldn't need to buy advertising for the day. The following is a quoted excerpt from the Mic report, verbatim, from Saliterman's response:

"I just learned our News Team is doing a Live Story on National Gun Violence Awareness Day," Saliterman's message began. "I would urgently like to speak with you about advertising opportunities within the story, as there will be three ad slots. We are also talking to the NRA about running ads within the story."

In a following email, he added (again, verbatim):

"To be clear, the story has the potential to be bought by any advertiser, including the NRA, which will enable the advertiser to run three 10-sec video ads within the story. This is analogous to how any advertiser could buy advertising in a TV news program about violence. The advertising will not impact the editorial content within the story as our teams are independent."

Snap hasn't disputed the existence of the emails, but does not agree that Saliterman was strong-arming Everytown. You can certainly take his words as a warning, rather than as a threat, since the NRA has bought rebuttal ads against gun control messages in the past. Whatever the intention, Everytown apparently decided not to work with Snapchat at all -- and the messaging company ran a story on June 9th titled Guns in America using user-submitted content.

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