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Fighting Hate and Battling Inequality With ... Snapchat?

Fighting Hate and Battling Inequality With ... Snapchat?

Using Snapchat to fight transphobic HB2 at UNC graduation

The ubiquitous app is a secret weapon when it comes to changing young hearts and minds.

You've heard about House Bill 2, the transphobic law in North Carolina forcing trans citizens to use bathrooms they don't feel comfortable in and forcing them to experience discrimination and fear daily. Last week, the Department of Justice sued, clearly stating that HB 2 breaks the law, specifically the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Last week, the state leadership of North Carolina sued the Department of Justice.

As LGBT Americans, we need to stop this law in its tracks. HB 2 cannot become a cancerous model that spreads throughout the country or even one referenced abroad as a way to justify even more extreme forms of discrimination against the already marginalized LGBT community.

But what can we do to help if we don't work in the homophobic governor's office or aren't elected members of a socially conservative legislature?

The answer is to leverage technology ... but how? Recently, Facebook and Twitter have lost their edge when it comes to social movements. The Arab Spring and marriage equality campaigns seem like distant memories of a time when social media could change the world. People, especially our nation's youth, aren't using the networks as frequently, and the companies are pressured to cram in more ads and make more money to satisfy their shareholders.

That got our team thinking. Where is everyone now? Snapchat.

But isn't Snapchat just for sexting? It doesn't have to be. Recently Snapchat staffers revealed that they have more than 100,000,000 active users. Every single day. This is a platform with staying power!

Snapchat is ready to have a social impact like Facebook and Twitter before it. Currently, custom filters are essentially native ads. But they have potential to be something greater.

That got us thinking. We created an anti-HB 2 filter on Snapchat and launched it over the weekend to help the people of North Carolina fight the homophobic position of the state's leadership. Here's how we did it.

Anti-HB 2 Filter at UNC Graduation

To our knowledge, this is the first instance of using Snapchat filters for social good. It's certainly the first Snapchat campaign fighting for the LGBT community.

After attempting to reach out to the Snapchat team through multiple channels (email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), we never heard back. Google has a nonprofit advertising program that Snapchat could learn from in the future.

Undeterred, we moved forward buying ad space like any sponsor or company (mostly large corporations like Budweiser or Coca-Cola).

Initially, we'd hoped to cover the whole state, but after seeing the advertising bill (tens of thousands of dollars), we had to home in on one place where we'd have the biggest impact.

That's when a lightbulb went off. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the flagship campus of North Carolina's education system. Yesterday was its graduation. Last week, we scrambled to design the filter and submit it for approval.

We waited to see if it would get approved in time to meet the imminent deadline.

Cryptically, it was approved the day before the graduation. Just in time.

The anti-HB2 filter blanketed the stadium at UNC Chapel Hill for graduation yesterday. We recognize that a single Snapchat filter alone won't change the world, but we're proud to have launched one of the first instances of using it to galvanize social change.

Hopefully we can keep the conversation going and help others use Snapchat as a tool to effect change. Maybe they'll even invest to build a platform to facilitate that!

Snapchat, if you're listening, we'd love to help you keep fighting for the LGBT community. In North Carolina and beyond.

Here's one Snap from the graduation, using the filter:

Snapchat reported that over 1,000 people at the UNC graduation viewed the filter. This may be the very first example of using Snapchat to fight for civil rights.

It is the first Snapchat campaign for LGBT equality. For the millions who use the social media platform daily, that's huge.

stuartsymingtonSTUART SYMINGTON is the founder of, the first database of volunteer, scholarship, and donation opportunities to help LGBT people. Follow the on Twitter @HelpOutLGBT.

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Stuart Symington