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Snapchat Shares Update on Internal and External Diversity Efforts, Including a Re-Think of its Camera Tools

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Snapchat has published the second edition of its Diversity Annual Report, which outlines the progress the company has made in seeking to meet its established goals on internal representation and improvement, while Snap has also provided details on news initiatives that will see it redesign its system tools in order to better serve a wider range of users.

First off, on its latest Diversity Report – in examining its progress in working towards the goals established in its first report, Snap says that it increased representation in several key areas, though the COVID-19 pandemic did slow its efforts in some respects.

Snapchat Diversity Report

As explained by Snapchat:

“Our 2020 data shows that since 2019, our representation numbers stayed largely the same, while we made promising gains in certain priority areas, such as almost doubling the percentage of women in tech leadership roles, and more than doubling our hiring of Black women.”

That said, Snapchat also notes that it actually lost ground in some key areas of focus:

“Representation for Hispanic/Latinx team members decreased slightly, and there were above-average attrition rates for some underrepresented team members, including those who identify as Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous.”

Snap says that it’s identified several shortcomings in its approach, aside from the impacts of the pandemic, which should enable it to get back on track with these elements, and it’s set some new goals that it’ll be working towards over the longer term.

Snapchat Diversity Report

Snapchat has a range of internal initiatives in place to meet these goals – but from an external perspective, Snap is also undertaking some important new initiatives which could help to increase representation and equality for users, in various ways.

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The main element of this new focus is a re-think of the Snap camera, which Snapchat says is based on inherently racist development.

“Early film technology used light skin as its chemical baseline. As a result, cameras were initially designed with an assumption of “Whiteness” embedded in their architecture and expected use cases. This legacy continues today: Cameras still haven’t widened their aperture to encompass all communities and skin tones.”

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So the very foundation that the camera is built upon is designed with white skin in mind, which could impact usage by people of color. Snap’s working to fix that:

“We’re building a more inclusive camera that works for each Snapchatter regardless of who they are and what they look like, and is flexible enough to support their creativity and self-expression.”

That’s an interesting consideration, and it’ll be equally interesting to see how Snap can evolve its tools to better cater to a wider range of people.

Snap’s also adopting a new ‘Inclusion by Design’ process in its product development framework, which will ensure more consideration is factored into each element, while it’s also working to add more diverse data inputs into its machine learning tools to maximize performance for a wider range of users.

“Machine learning learns from existing data, which means it learns from existing biases around race, gender identity, and other characteristics. The result? These tools don’t work well for people outside the majority dataset.”

This is a critical consideration – as more algorithms and machine learning systems determine our content exposure, it’s important to also measure the impacts of the inputs of such, which may also be inherently biased, as they’re based on existing user behaviors. Removing any such bias could play a big role in reducing the same within your audience. Instagram has also implemented new frameworks to help ensure its machine learning systems are designed with equity top of mind.

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Overall, Snapchat seems focused on the right areas, and it’s especially interesting to note the various ways in which it’s looking to develop its internal models to create a more inclusive user experience.

You can read Snap’s full 50-page 2021 Diversity Report here, while Snap has also published this video overview of the key notes.

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Jack Dorsey Exits Twitter Board, Clearing the Way for the Elon Musk Era at the App

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Elon Musk Launches Hostile Takeover Bid for Twitter

While there’s no new news on the Elon Musk takeover saga, we do have another reminder that Twitter’s leadership team is never going to be the same, regardless of what comes next, with co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey today leaving the Twitter board, effective immediately.

Dorsey’s full exit removes another big chunk of experience from the company – over the past two weeks, Twitter has lost:

  • Consumer product leader Kayvon Beykpour, who’d worked at Twitter for four years
  • Head of revenue product Bruce Falck (5 years)
  • Ilya Brown, a VP of product management (6 years)
  • Katrina Lane, VP of Twitter Service (1 year)
  • Max Schmeiser, head of data science (2 years)

That said, Dorsey’s move, isn’t a surprise.

Back in November, when Dorsey announced that he was standing down as Twitter CEO, he also noted that he would stay on Twitter’s board till around ‘May-ish’ to help incoming CEO Parag Agrawal and incoming Twitter Board chair Bret Taylor with their respective transitions.

Of course, back then, Dorsey couldn’t have predicted the chaos on the horizon, but despite the distractions of an imminent takeover, Dorsey has decided to stick with his original plan, and step away from the platform that he helped build.

That clears the path for a new era under Elon Musk, who has vowed to make significant changes to the way that Twitter operates – though of late, Musk seems to be more distracted by stats on population decline and political conspiracies than he does in completing the Twitter deal.

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On May 13th, Musk said that his Twitter takeover offer was effectively ‘on hold’ pending more data from Twitter on its fake profile count, which it pegs at 5% of active users. Many users have since shared partial evidence that, in their opinion, proves that this number is not correct, while Twitter itself has maintained that there’s no such thing as ‘on hold’ in the takeover process, and that it’s preparing for the deal to close sometime soon.

Musk says that he won’t pay full price for something that’s not what he believed he was purchasing.

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But then again, Musk also waived doing detailed due diligence on Twitter’s business, in order to reach an agreement faster, which means that he may be tied to the purchase anyway, regardless of what Twitter or anyone else may find here.

For his part, Dorsey has been a strong advocate for Musk, and his interest in Twitter, and has noted several times that he believes Musk is the best option to ‘save’ the company.

Now Dorsey is getting out of the way to let that happen, which will mean that none of Twitter’s four founders remain in any position to advise or guide the platform in any direct capacity from now on.

That could be a good thing. Twitter, of course, is a far cry from what it was in the beginning, and maybe now it needs to detach from its founding concepts to reach its next stage.

But again, that’s a lot of experience heading out the door, with current CEO Agrawal also on the chopping block, according to Musk’s statements.

How that impacts Twitter’s future direction is hard to say. Again, Musk has already flagged significant changes, but without experienced voices advising him on what’s happened in the past, he could be doomed to repeat previous mistakes, impeding the company’s progress even more.

Or maybe it makes things easier, without the constraints of past limitations holding things up. I would lean towards the former, but clearly, Musk has his own ideas about how he’s going to transform the app, once he does, eventually, take control.

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Which seems like more of a ‘when’ than ‘if’, but maybe Musk has some other trick up his sleeve to either reduce his offer price or get out of the Twitter deal entirely.

Either way, massive changes are coming to the app, which could alter the way that it’s used entirely.

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