Today, our co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel joined other tech platforms in testifying before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. You can read Evan’s full oral testimony presented before the Committee below.
Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, and members of the Committee, thank you for convening this hearing and for moving forward important legislation to protect children online.
I am Evan Spiegel, the co-founder and CEO of Snap.
We created Snapchat, an online service that is used by more than 800 million people worldwide, to communicate with their friends and family.
I know that many of you have been working to protect children online since before Snapchat was created, and we are grateful for your long-term dedication to this cause and your willingness to work together to help keep our community safe.
I want to acknowledge the survivors of online harms and the families who are here today who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
Words cannot begin to express the profound sorrow I feel that a service we designed to bring people happiness and joy has been abused to cause harm.
I want to be clear that we understand our responsibility to help keep our community safe.
I also want to recognize the many families who have worked to raise awareness on these issues, pushed for change, and collaborated with lawmakers on important legislation like the Cooper Davis Act, which can help save lives.
I started building Snapchat with my co-founder Bobby Murphy when I was twenty years old. We designed Snapchat to solve some of the problems that we experienced online when we were teenagers.
We didn’t have an alternative to social media. That meant pictures shared online were permanent, public, and subject to popularity metrics. It didn’t feel very good.
We built Snapchat differently because we wanted a new way to communicate with our friends that was fast, fun, and private. A picture is worth a thousand words, so people communicate with images and videos on Snapchat.
We don’t have public likes or comments when you share your Story with friends.
Snapchat is private by default, meaning that people need to opt-in to add friends and choose who can contact them.
When we built Snapchat we chose to have the images and videos sent through our service delete by default.
Like prior generations who have enjoyed the privacy afforded by phone calls, which aren’t recorded, our generation has benefitted from the ability to share moments through Snapchat that may not be picture perfect but instead convey emotion without permanence.
Even though Snapchat messages are deleted by default, we let everyone know that images and videos can be saved by the recipient.
When we take action on illegal or potentially harmful content, we also retain the evidence for an extended period, which allows us to support law enforcement and help hold criminals accountable.
To help prevent the spread of harmful content on Snapchat, we approve the content that is recommended on our service using a combination of automated processes and human review.
We apply our content rules consistently and fairly across all accounts. We run samples of our enforcement actions through quality assurance to verify that we are getting it right.
We also proactively scan for known child sexual abuse material, drug-related content, and other types of harmful content, remove that content, deactivate and device-block offending accounts, preserve the evidence for law enforcement, and report certain content to the relevant authorities for further action.
Last year we made 690,000 reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, leading to more than 1,000 arrests. We also removed 2.2 million pieces of drug-related content and blocked 705,000 associated accounts.
Even with our strict privacy settings, content moderation efforts, proactive detection, and law enforcement collaboration, bad things can still happen when people use online services. That’s why we believe that people under the age of thirteen are not yet ready to communicate on Snapchat.
We strongly encourage parents to use the device-level parental controls on iPhone and Android. We use them in our own household and my wife approves every app that our thirteen year old downloads.
For parents who want more visibility and control, we built Family Center in Snapchat where you can view who your teen is talking to, review privacy settings, and set content limits.
We have worked for years with members of the Committee on legislation like the Kids Online Safety Act and the Cooper Davis Act which we are proud to support. I want to encourage broader industry support for legislation protecting children online.
No legislation is perfect but some rules of the road are better than none.
Much of the work that we do to protect the people that use our service would not be possible without the support of our partners across the industry, government, non-profit organizations, NGOs, and in particular, law enforcement and the first responders who have committed their lives to helping keep people safe.
I am profoundly grateful for the extraordinary efforts across our country and around the world to prevent criminals from using online services to perpetrate their crimes.
I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunities that this country has afforded me and my family. I feel a deep obligation to give back and to make a positive difference and I am grateful to be here today as part of this vitally important democratic process.
Members of the Committee, I give you my commitment that we will be part of the solution for online safety.
We will be honest about our shortcomings, and we will work continuously to improve.
Thank you and I look forward to answering your questions.