Somewhere, perhaps in Snapchat’s headquarters on the west side of Los Angeles, in the sunny beachside community of Venice, the question of what to do about this story must have come up. Maybe even one or more of the former Stanford University students who founded Snapchat in 2011—Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown—have considered their options. If so, they appear to have decided to let it fall down the memory hole like the photos on their photo-sharing website do soon after being published, as they haven’t responded to our questions.
It is hard to blame them. Why would they want to keep this story alive? It might be fake news. It is embarrassing either way. It has to do with emails allegedly provided to Mic, an online news source founded in 2011 that says it is about publishing content for “millenials.”
The emails allegedly show an exchange between a Snapchat ad salesman and the anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety. According to Mic, as Rob Saliterman, Snapchat’s head of political sales, was attempting to sell ads to Everytown, Snapchat’s news team was offering Everytown free coverage of a pro-gun-control event.
Saliterman, again allegedly, told Everytown it would cost them at least $150,000 to advertise in three spots within the editorial being put together by Snapchat.
Now here’s where this gets spicy—and where some are spinning the story.It is hard to blame them. Why would they want to keep this story alive?
Last May, Saliterman found that Snapchat’s editorial team was offering to give billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown the free coverage, which sort of takes the incentive away for Everytown to buy ads. According to Mic, Saliterman emailed Everytown to say, “I just learned our News Team is doing a Live Story on National Gun Violence Awareness Day. 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.”
So, if this is true, the news team at Snapchat was unintentionally getting in the way of their company’s ad sales. This happens all the time, by the way, in any publication responsible enough to put a wall between their ad and edit arms.
Cue the dishonesty from the media.
A lot of online news sites are running stories saying Snapchat threatened Everytown by saying they just might have NRA ads running in a live story on their anti-gun event.
The Next Web, for example, began a story with this sentence: “Explosive emails obtained by Mic have painted Snapchat in a negative light, after it asked a gun safety charity for a six-figure payout to prevent NRA adverts playing on its videos.Meanwhile, no one is reporting the interesting caveat that it is Snapchat’s official policy to prohibit ads for “firearms, weapons, ammunition, or accessories.”
The Next Web, of course, called Everytown “an advocacy group that focuses on gun safety and violence issues” and later referred to them as a “charity” group. Meanwhile, they called the NRA a “deeply controversial and polarizing gun advocacy group.”
According to the original story on Mic, Snapchat’s ad salesman said in an email to Everytown: “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.”
Amidst this, Everytown allegedly responded via email that it could not afford the advertising rate and backed out of the whole thing.
Mic then reported that Everytown “did not respond” to its “multiple requests for comment.” That’s normal for Everytown; they don’t respond to a media request if they can’t control the message or if they aren’t dealing with a publication and a reporter who sides with their gun control stances.
Meanwhile, no one is reporting the interesting caveat that it is Snapchat’s official policy to prohibit ads for “firearms, weapons, ammunition, or accessories.” They also prohibit ads for cigarettes, for “adult products,” for “illegal” things and more.
Given that they explicitly prohibit showing ads for guns and ammo, it would make it difficult for a gun-rights group advertising on Snapchat to show how firearms are legally used by over 100 million Americans. You know, in the hands of happy enthusiasts at skeet ranges, in pistol houses and in the backyards of rural America, all enjoying the shooting sports. Could an ad on Snapchat show guns in the hands of Olympians, of Boy Scouts, 4-H members or of the many more who enjoy gun competitions across this great country? If these ads were seen as promoting these legal products, they could be prohibited.
Frank Miniter is the author of The New York Times' bestseller The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide—Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood. He is also the author of This Will Make a Man of You and The Future of the Gun. He is a contributor to Forbes and writes for many publications. His website is FrankMiniter.com