On the 21st June 2017, Snapchat introduced Snap Maps: “We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world! See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!”
Today, young people have access to some of the best technology in the world than ever before. Snapchat started off as an app for people to send photos to friends, some even used it to showcase their drawing talents. But as of June 2017, ‘Snap Maps’ was presented as a feature that would display the user’s exact location each time they opened the app. Snap Maps uses a person’s ‘Bitmoji’ – a cartoon avatar where Snapchat fans can create a lookalike of their selves – and use it as their character on the map.
It does, of course, give the user a privacy setting known as ‘ghost mode’, where users can hide their location or only show it to a selected group of users, but the feature came under fire for encouraging stalking and/or bullying behaviour by Childnet, a non-profit organisation that aims to help make the internet a ‘safe’ place for young people.
The National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection command has issued a simplified guidance to concerned parents on what Snapchat is and how it can be used. Drug use is predominately an issue within the young people community and using social media to obtain the substances is on the rise because of how quick and easy it is to buy or sell them online.
Snap Maps goes as far as to show the user’s detailed location such as the borough and street name, and this sparked safety concerns with parents, schools, and non-profit organisations. Due to the simplicity of using Snapchat to find and chat to strangers, young people are using the Snap Maps feature to their advantage by searching for local dealers that will supply them with ‘up-to-trend’ drugs.
Journalist Stacey Dooley presented an anticipated, yet intriguing documentary on BBC that showed millennial’s obsession with using social media accounts such as Instagram and Snapchat, and even a new app called ‘Yellow’ which allowed them to gain an increasing amount of followers. Many young people are using Snap Maps to locate their nearest drug dealers, and even ‘get to know’ their local dealers through the app’s chat feature before even meeting them in person.
Snapchat’s ‘disappearing’ feature is encouraging digital dealers to lure young people into buying drugs. Messages on Snapchat are automatically deleted, leaving absolutely no evidence of an illegal exchange. Snapchat has 166 million daily active users with 14 million of them being in Britain and is used by more than 75 percent of UK teens. 70% of users are under the age of 34.
Snapchat is filled with young people displaying their everyday lives, unfortunately, drug crime is also happening amongst them. Blissfully unaware of any dangerous consequences, young millennials will do anything to find dealers that will supply them with stimulating, yet deadly, drugs such as ecstasy, meth, and crack cocaine for a decent price on the market. And with no discernable evidence of an illicit transaction, these crimes are becoming hard and harder to address.
Throughout the investigation led by one of Britain’s most loved documentary presenters Stacey Dooley, Snapchat appeared hesitant to comment on the matter, though at the end of the documentary, Snapchat stated: “We encourage all Snapchatters to report anything to us that doesn’t belong on Snapchat.”