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Snapchat Is a Perfect Tool for Understanding Tragedy

Mike Murphy - Quartz
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October 4, 2017
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Screenshots as events unfold (Snapchat)

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a string of tragic events. Three major hurricanes ripped through the US and the Caribbean. A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City. Catalonia tried to hold a vote on independence from Spain, and elderly women were dragged away by riot police. A gunman opened fire from a casino and killed dozens in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We used to wait for news trucks to roll in after an event happens, talk with victims and survey the damage. Occasionally, people who happened to be filming or taking photos when tragedy struck would send their work to news outlets, providing an eyewitness version of events.

Most recently, smartphones with high-resolution cameras that can beam images anywhere in the world have found a place on platforms like Periscope and Facebook Live that allow smartphone owners to broadcast live video and share them with anyone who wants to watch. But the ability to find video feeds on these platforms is difficult if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, or if you haven’t been brought to a feed by someone else.



Earlier this year, Snapchat introduced a feature called Snap Maps. It has become a surprisingly effective window into real-time news events in part because Snap also committed to placing news and events so prominently on its platform. The company recently told Quartz its 173 million users take more than 3 billion snaps a day - but most of those were invisible to the average user. Unless you were sent a snap by someone, or saw a public snap that someone you follow posted, there was no easy way to see what going on in the world of Snapchat. Snap Maps fixed that.

On the surface, the feature is a cute way to see what your friends around the world are doing, and to see what’s happening around the globe. Your friends appear as their Bitmoji, the custom-avatar company Snap acquired in 2016, and they live on a colorful map that looks ripped from the world of Pokémon Go.

You can tap on their avatars to see what they’ve been up to over the last 24 hours (after that time, public snaps disappear), or you can tap on any heat map you see anywhere in the world, which indicates that people have snapped there recently.

Read the rest at Quartz


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