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With the European General Elections coming up next month, Snapchat has announced some new initiatives to encourage civic participation among E.U. residents.

Which could be especially important this year, because for the first time, Belgium and Germany are lowering their voting age to 16, joining Austria, Malta and Greece in expanding a say to younger citizens. Voting is also compulsory in Belgium and Greece, which means that Snap could play a key role in reaching these younger, first-time voters, who may end up holding significant sway in the results.

In order to help raise awareness, Snap has launched a new AR election Lens, in conjunction with the European Parliament, which encourages people to get out and vote.

Snap says that it’ll be sharing this Lens with all EU Snapchatters, along with a message to remind them to vote, and a link to the Parliament’s election website.

Which may seem like a minor push, but Snapchat’s track record on this front is significant.

Snap says that, in 2018, it helped over 450k U.S. Snapchatters register to vote, while in 2020, that increased to 1.2 million.

Back in 2020, research conducted by Democracy Works, also found that of the 450,000 U.S. Snapchatters who registered to vote through its TurboVote process in 2018, around 57% then went on to vote in the US Midterms, equating to around 260,000 extra votes cast as a direct result of a push via the app.

Snap has also been able to encourage more civic participation via direct awareness pushes, which have encouraged young people themselves to nominate for local office.

The app’s reach and resonance with youngsters is highly valuable in this respect, and it’ll be interesting to see the role that Snap plays in encouraging youngsters to take part this time around.

In addition to new Lenses, Snap’s is also partnering with the European Parliament and European Commission to promote their ‘Use your vote’ information campaign on elections, while it also continues to monitor for misinformation and threats to democratic process.

As per Snap:

“In preparation for the EU elections we have:

  • Signed up to the AI Elections Accord, alongside other technology firms, where we pledged to work collaboratively on tools to detect and limit the spread of AI generated content which aims to deceive voters. 
  • Introduced contextual symbols to help our community understand when they are interacting with Snap generated AI content.
  • Further instructed My AI to avoid engaging on political topics.
  • Partnered with Logically, a leading fact checking organisation and signatory of the EU Disinformation Code of Practice, to help fact check political ad statements across the EU.”

While Snapchat may not spring to mind as the first place to connect with voters, the latest updates to E.U. voting rules could actually make it a significant influence, which could see more political operatives looking to focus on the app to reach younger users.

Which is why these measures are important. And while an AR filter doesn’t seem like much in the broader scheme of civic participation, it could actually play a much bigger role than many expect.

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