Snapchat unveils new safety features to protect young users

Snapchat has announced a series of new safety features aimed at protecting young users from online harms such as sextortion and bullying.

The new features include expanded in-chat warnings, improved friending protections, enhancements to blocking capabilities, and simplified location-sharing options.

The social media platform’s updated tools are designed to strengthen the safeguards against online harassment while supporting genuine connections between real-life friends. Ben Au, Snap’s Public Policy Lead for Australia and New Zealand, emphasised that the safety, privacy, and well-being of Snapchat users are primary concerns for the company.

“Snapchat is designed differently to traditional social media, with a focus on helping people connect with friends they know in real life,” said Au. “As new online harms continue to emerge, we’re committed to developing ways to protect our community against these risks, especially with the safety of young New Zealanders in mind.”

The announcement includes several new safety measures. One of the standout features is the expanded in-app warning system. Previously, Snapchat would issue a pop-up warning when a teenager received a message from someone they did not share mutual friends with or have in their contacts. This feature has already led to more than 12 million blocks since its introduction. The updated warning system will now alert users if they receive a message from someone who has been blocked or reported by others, or from a region where the user’s network is not typically located.

Snapchat has also tightened its friending protections. Teenagers will no longer be suggested as friends in Quick Add or Search unless they have multiple mutual connections. Additionally, the platform will prevent friend requests when there are no mutual friends and if the person has a history of accessing Snapchat from locations often associated with scamming activities. This measure is currently available in select countries and will be introduced in New Zealand in future updates.

To tackle persistent harassment, Snapchat has made improvements to its blocking tools. Now, if a user is blocked, any new accounts created on the same device will also be blocked from sending friend requests. This aims to prevent bad actors from continuing to harass users by creating new accounts.

The platform has also simplified location-sharing. All users, including teens, receive regular reminders to check their account security and privacy settings. Users can now more easily customise which friends can see their location on Snap Map, ensuring that users always know with whom they are sharing their whereabouts. This feature provides a single destination for users to manage their location-sharing settings.

“Our newest safeguards are all about supporting real and genuine connections, empowering young people to make smart choices, and ensuring that every Snapchatter feels secure and confident while using our platform,” added Au.

These updates continue Snapchat’s efforts to combat the growing trend of sextortion scams, particularly targeting teens. According to Au, actions like designing the app to not display public friend lists and preventing strangers from messaging teens unless they have been added as friends are part of these efforts.

With these enhancements, Snapchat aims to create an even safer environment for its users, particularly young teens, ensuring they can enjoy the platform without worrying about online dangers.

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