Snapchat, Vaccines and Animal Rebellion

Authors: Zoe Dawson, Liam Clifford, Jece Shunmugam
  • Reading time: 4 min.
  • Posted on: May 25, 2021

Read on for a handpicked selection of the good, the bad, and the one to watch in the world of social impact communications. This week, we’re highlighting Snapchat’s inclusive camera, the rise of vaccine billionaires and Animal Rebellion versus McDonald’s.

| NAILED IT: Snapchat strives to be more inclusive

Social media messaging platform Snapchat has launched new camera features designed specifically to capture people with darker skin tones.

The ‘Inclusive Camera’ team at Snapchat worked with film industry directors of photography to implement techniques and technologies that not only capture black and brown individuals, but celebrate them. Looking at the history of cameras and image-making, there have been genuine technological limitations to photographing darker complexions. Cameras have always been designed with white skin in mind.

By accounting for all peoples skin tones in developing their new features, Snapchat has ensured that all its users (whatever phone they pick up) are able to take a good selfie. While it seems crazy that this is only just happening now, it shows us that creating technology that’s designed to be inclusive is totally possible. 

Bertrand Saint-Preux, the software engineer at Snapchat behind the inclusive camera said:

“it’s a camera that allows any person to be seen the way that they want to be seen, the way that they are.” 

The new features will become available in Snapchat’s Camera Kit, so developers all over the world can now easily follow suit, and make their cameras work for everyone. 

| ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: New coronavirus vaccine billionaires

As global leaders prepare to head into the G7 summit, it’s emerged that nine new people have become billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to the vast profits that pharmaceutical companies have been making from their stranglehold on coronavirus vaccine production around the world.

Together, the new vaccine billionaires’ net wealth tops $19.3bn — a figure which, according to The People’s Vaccine, would be enough to vaccinate every person in low-income nations 1.3 times over.

COVID-19 vaccines have been at the centre of growing international outrage over the past few months, as higher-income nations buy up and roll out vaccines while poorer nations can only watch, despite case numbers growing. So far, low-income nations have received only 0.2% of global vaccinations. Meanwhile, some nations are hoarding enough vaccine stock to vaccinate their own populations several times over.

Important global leaders like the UK and Germany, with their influential seats at the table, are perpetuating the imbalance by blocking calls to free up vaccine production, and protecting the profits of those pharmaceutical companies — even as the death toll continues to rise.

| ONE TO WATCH: Animal Rebellion takes on McDonald’s

On Saturday, Animal Rebellion (affiliated with Extinction Rebellion) singled out the major fast-food chain, McDonald’s, demanding it move to a plant-based menu. The demonstration numbered over 50,000 activists, a significant feat in itself, who descended on four of the fast-food chain’s major depot sites and created a significant disruption by blockading sites and preventing lorries from leaving. 

Animal Rebellion said the purpose of the protest was to call out the livestock and agriculture industry for its contribution to greenhouse gases, with the ultimate (and somewhat unrealistic) goal of persuading McDonald’s to commit to an entirely plant-based menu by 2025.

The group’s strategy is using nonviolent civil disobedience to force political and commercial change in the climate activism and animal rights space, suggesting that we can expect such demonstrations to continue. Activities that force public opinion and put a spotlight on those most responsible for climate emissions are certainly attention-grabbing, but we have to ask, is disruption and disobedience really the best way to build a greener (and more plant-based) future? We are already seeing a general – considerably more gentle – warming to plant-based food and a growing awareness that corporations must take responsibility for tackling climate change. The worry with Extinction Rebellion and its new cousin AR is whether they take us two steps forward or three steps back.