Snapchat boss: ‘User behaviour protected by free speech’

There needs to be a balance between moderating social media platforms and users’ free speech, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel has told the BBC.

Mr Spiegel said users need to be allowed to express themselves – even when they say inappropriate things.

But he said Snapchat, which hit almost 250 million daily users in October, was taking a “proactive approach” to content posted on it.

The billionaire founder also said he was “happy” to pay more taxes.

“We’ve definitely taken a proactive approach to the content that’s distributed on Snapchat, but at the same time, you know, should platforms be responsible?,” Mr Spiegel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“For example, for telephone calls, I would say no – if you pick up the phone, and you say something really, really inappropriate and outrageous to your friends, the telephone company isn’t responsible for what your friend said, your friend is responsible.”

He added that it was important to strike a balance between reaching a huge audience – more than 70% of 13-34 year olds in the US – and giving people a place to exercise their right to free speech.

“We do want to make sure that our platform is the place where people can express themselves and even though they say inappropriate things sometimes, our government actually has a whole legal framework to protect that sort of self expression and free speech,” he said.

New investments

Mr Spiegel, who launched Snapchat while studying at Stamford University and became one of the world’s youngest billionaires at the age of 25, said he would be “happy” to pay more taxes.

He feels that it was “inevitable” that Silicon Valley tech firms have grown in power due to the advent of the internet, and that it was “reasonable” for there to be increased regulatory scrutiny of tech giants.

Snapchat hit almost 250 million daily users in October.

However he stressed that governments and technology have a symbiotic relationship, and that if tech giants pay more taxes, at least some of that money needs to be put back funding research into developing new technologies like artificial intelligence.

“The history of great nations really tends to be built on huge breakthroughs in technology and a lot of times that technology is founded on government investment,” he explained.

“I think it’s really easy today in our political system to focus on the failures, rather than these amazing successes.

“Regulation is only one part of a comprehensive technology strategy – the rest of it really has to be oriented around…investment in new technology.”

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