AUSTIN (KXAN) — A message or photo sent on Snapchat may only be visible for a day, but the popular app started something new to help young people make a much more long-lasting impact politically.
The popular social media company launched an interactive program Tuesday called Run for Office. People can check out its features by opening the app and searching for that phrase, which will then bring up a walk-through process to learn about different political issues as well as open elected positions in someone’s area.
“We’ve seen this next generation marching the streets. We’ve seen them show up to vote, and now we want to make sure that they understand how to make a difference in their local community based on the issues they care most about,” Sofia Gross, the company’s head of policy partnerships and social impact, said.
Gross said this initiative is focused on helping young people identify where they could make a difference through serving the community in elected office. It’s an extension of Snapchat’s previous efforts, she explained, to get users more engaged with their communities. The app previously helped users with finding their sample ballots as well as registering people to vote.
“Snapchat reaches 90% of the U.S. population aged 13 to 24, and with that comes huge responsibility,” Gross said. “We also know this next generation of Americans has grown up being able to do whatever they want from their phones, except to do things like register to vote, so we really want to help bridge that gap by building what we call native to mobile civic tools, which just means civic tools built for phones that really help Snapchatters understand how to enter public life and make their voice heard.”
This resource, however, arrives at a fraught time politically that may sour some to consider public service. For instance, school board meetings in Round Rock and other districts have recently devolved into shouting matches and even led to some arrests, over issues that range from mask usage to teaching about current events.
When asked how the contentious discourse and environment may affect a future crop of younger candidates, Gross said Snapchat is trying to create engagement no matter the political viewpoint.
“We want to make sure that Snapchatters from across the political spectrum have an equal opportunity to understanding how they can play a leadership role and enter public life when it comes to topics like running for office,” she said. “However, when it comes to issues of fake news and disinformation, that violates our community guidelines, and so it has no home on Snapchat. But we do want Snapchatters to recognize no matter who they are, where they come from, they can make a difference in their local community.”
The program also points out a stunning statistic that more than 70% of races went uncontested during the 2020 election, meaning many candidates easily ran and faced no competition.
“We want to help Snapchatters understand that if they want to see the issues they care most about represented at the local leadership level, then they should run,” Gross said.
Snapchat also created a new camera lens where people can nominate or suggest a friend to run for a certain position, which Gross said could make a difference in someone taking the chance to look into running for something.
“We know from research how important a validator can be in this space. And so it’s one thing for an individual to raise their hand to run for office. But we really lean into this close friends nature of the platform, because if someone gets a snap from their best friend and the whole world, telling them that they should consider running for office, we know how powerful that can be when it comes to helping inspire people to take this next step in their civic journey.”