Snapchat is proving to be much more than just a means of sending silly pictures to friends. In fact, it's quickly becoming a powerful tool for users to share intimate looks into catastrophic situations. When a gunman opened fire on a music festival crowd, Las Vegas Snap Map stories showed exactly what was happening, in real time.
On Monday Oct. 1, a 64-year-old white man from Nevada unleashed a flurry of bullets onto the crowd below, killing 58 people and injuring 515, according to The New York Times. As chaos unraveled on the ground, people took to Snapchat to record what was happening around them. Gunshots can be heard in the background, people can be seen running, ducking behind cars, crying, and huddling together. Conflicting, frantic screams of "Go!" and "Don't leave, stay here" can heard throughout the series of snaps. Two women posted a video of themselves, crying, and saying that they were safe in a hallway.
The series of snaps were curated by editors on Snapchat, who plastered a "Warning: Graphic Content" ahead of the footage. You can views the videos on a tool called Snap Maps. Pinch your Snapchat camera screen until a map appears, and then zoom in on Nevada, where there's a featured collection of stories, showing both the during and the aftermath of the shooting.
Social media users looked on in horror as the videos piled in.
When Snap Maps first launched, it was called out as a potentially super invasive addition to the app. The features tracks your location and and pins it onto a public map. That location can then be zoomed in on, and someone can find out exactly where you are, down to literally the exact street address. You weren't forced to share your location, though, and it's an opt-in sort of feature. But, still, there were arguments over whether teenagers (the app's key demographic) would understand the seriousness of location-sharing. Michael Kasdan, an attorney who specializes in privacy, told CNBC,
There is that risk of real bad actors…someone stalking and someone being able to locate someone in the real world, Teenage users, a lot of them don't necessarily think about the privacy implications, they're more thinking about connecting with their friends, and whatever …everyone else is doing.
On the other hand, the feature has allowed for people across the world to get important updates on tragic events as they unfold. A crew of journalists work for Snapchat, curating videos for Snap Maps along with adding text that provides up-to-the-minute coverage.
In 2015, when a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California claimed the lives of 14 people, Snapchat provided real-time updates from people on the scene.
“We published this story because we felt that the content, which comes from the LA local Story, was newsworthy and held national significance,” Mary Ritti, Snapchat's vice president of communications, told International Business Times.
The app also pulled together stories from Hurricane Harvey and Irma, which showed user-submitted footage, including shots of rising water, evacuees being lifted from their houses by helicopter, and rescue teams in action. Snapchat received almost 250,000 submissions for the Hurricane Irma Snap Map story in 24 hours. Many, many thousands of more continued to come in as the days went on.
Snapchat is even carving a corner for itself in international war coverage. In 2016, the app published an almost five minute feed titled "Attack On ISIS." The videos showed footage from on the ground, as Iraqi and Kurdish military fought against Islamic State military for control of the city of Mosul.
Elite Daily has reached out to Snapchat for comment on the story but has not heard back at time of publication.