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Issue in Media Law Report

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2019


The media was traditionally associated with print and broadcast, but the birth of internet media is slowly transforming communication. With the introduction of several online forums, people now have a variety of communication channels to use when either sending or looking for information.

Besides, the traditional text messaging has been transformed into more interesting and engaging forums, all thanks to the development of applications such as Snapchat, Viber and WhatsApp. This report presents important insights into Snapchat. The paper provides an overview of the application including the inherent legal issues.

About Snapchat

Developed by two Stanford college students in 2011, Snapchat is a mobile phone application that allows users to send and receive picture messages from their Android or Apple phones (Urban Dictionary, 2013). The founders were interested in developing an application that is engaging to users, but in which information circulated cannot be re-used in the future. With this in mind, Snapchat was designed to auto-delete pictures and videos sent within ten seconds of opening.

This was meant to be a good security measure to guard users against the risk of other people downloading their images and inappropriately using them. However, this security check has been misused since users are aware that it is impossible to obtain the information circulated later on. For this reason, Snapchat has become a platform for bullying and sexting (Urban Dictionary, 2013).

Just like any other application, Snapchat has both pros and cons. The application provides a free new way of communication, which allows users to be goofy without fearing repercussions. However, it is not possible to record long videos using Snapchat. Besides, the application does not provide any self-privacy as it claims since users have found means of saving and misusing photos. This, therefore, leads me to the question; just how safe is Snapchat?

Is Snapchat Safe?

Every user of an online forum is usually concerned about his/her privacy. While Snapchat promised its users of their privacy, the users felt deceived when news broke out in 2013 that the company has been handing unopened photos to the American law enforcement agency and now the recent hacking.

Besides, Snapcha does not store all the information in its sandbox to ensure that all the information is auto-deleted. There has been proof that Snapchat stores some information outside the sandbox hence not everything is usually deleted. The hackers would not have obtained the photos if everything is usually deleted. This is a clear breach of users’ privacy rights.

Further, the Snapchat’s find friends feature is not protected making it easy for hackers to retrieve information about users and their friends. In simple, Snapchat is not safe and users should be wary of their privacy when sending their photos through the application. Nevertheless, it is a great application that is easy to use and a faster way of communicating. You will always find it intriguing so long as you use the application for the right purpose.

There were claims sometime in October 2014 that Snapchat had been hacked and user photos where being circulated in 4chan.org (Isaac, 2014). The company admitted that the application had been hacked by another application, Snapsaved, which has the ability to save Snapchat images.

While many other online service providers can get hacked, many users are left wondering whether it is true that the images actually get deleted or they are stored somewhere within the application server. Even Snapchat managers admitted that they are not able to prevent the recipients from capturing and saving images using other devices. Hence, the privacy of Snapchat users is at risk.

However, Snapchat managers are doing their best to regulate the usage of the application. For instance, the company admitted handing unopened photos of its users to American law enforcement agency as a way of taking precautions to ensure that information being circulated using the application is safe (Holpuch, 2013).

While this caused an uproar among users, with many questioning whether images get completely deleted from the server, the company defended itself and stated that it was not possible to provide images already opened since the application deletes images a few seconds after opening. The company is also considering adjusting the application so that it is possible to view images repeatedly for 24 hours before they are deleted. This will give law enforcers a chance to investigate and track down misusers of Snapchat.

But are governments doing enough to regulate internet messaging services such as Snapchat? Regulating social media forums has been a challenge mainly because of the large number of users involved and the worldwide scope of their usage (Holpuch, 2013). Nevertheless, governments are to blame for not being able to develop robust laws to regulate the usage of applications like Snapchat.

In Australia, for example, Snapchat is considered a small media platform, which does not fall under the legal scope of the federal government’s crackdown hence crimes committed often go unpunished (Johnson, 2014).

While some governments like the United States have set up bodies to deal with crimes emanating from social media forums, such bodies often have no legal mandate to deal with the offenders directly, but can only ask managers of the forums to remove information considered inappropriate. There is a need for mechanisms that focus on punishing individual offenders to deter misuse of applications like Snapchat.

How Can Snapchat be regulated?

Despite the challenges, there are ways that can assist in regulating information being circulated in Snapchat. First, law enforcers should make it a policy for companies to take responsibility for allowing illegal material to be circulated through their forums. Companies that are reluctant to remove illegal material once asked to do so should be charged under civil law for not discharging their responsibility accordingly.

Second, social media services tolerating the circulating of inappropriate material should be named and shamed. However, this might not be effective as the culprits will be left untouched. Besides, embarrassing the companies is not a guarantee that its users will stop circulating inappropriate information. Third, given that the majority of social media users are underage, laws governing cyberbullying will be appropriate.

Such laws should cover both big and small companies. In Australia, for instance, the government enacted a law to curb cyberbullying against children, but this law does not apply to small companies such as Snapchat since the government does not consider their usage significant enough to warrant regulation (Bilbao, 2014). Last, users of Snapchat should be human and stop misusing this application.

They should stop for a moment and imagine that they might need the person they are currently bullying in the future. Even without laws, users need to act responsibly and self-regulate their actions (Jefferson, 2014). Users have a moral obligation to use the application for its intended purpose, which is connecting with friends and not bullying and sexting.


From the discussion, it is clear that Snapchat has privacy issues. But which application does not have flaws? Even Facebook has flaws. It is up to the government to up its game and regulates the usage of social media. Snapchat is fast and has transformed text messaging all over the world. It is an application I would recommend to anyone who loves sending pictures and videos.


Bilbao, B. (2014). . Web.

Holpuch, A. (2013). . The Guardian Magazine. Web.

Isaac, M. (2014). . The New York Times. Web.

Jefferson, R. (2014). The deal with Snapchat safety. Web.

Johnson, B. (2014). . The Sydney Morning Gerald. Web.

Urban Dictionary. (2013). . Web.

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