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Snapchat ran an ad asking users if they’d rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown

Rihanna told the app to delete itself.

Rihanna Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Snapchat’s main selling point is producing stories that disappear from its users’ phones. Lately, however, the company has made some decisions that it probably wishes would disappear from its users’ memories.

In what the company characterizes as an unfortunate oversight, Snapchat recently approved and published an ad for a game called “Would You Rather?” that posed the question of whether users would prefer to “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.” While distasteful in any context, the ad is particularly tone-deaf in its callous reference to the 2009 incident when Brown violently assaulted Rihanna, his then-girlfriend, to which he pleaded guilty.

Snapchat’s “Slap Rihanna” ad
Snapchat’s “Slap Rihanna” ad.

Rihanna responded on Instagram (Snapchat’s rival social media platform) with a story that stated: “Now Snapchat, I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess. I’d love to call it ignorance but I know you ain’t that dumb!”

The post continued, “You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV [domestic violence] victims and made a joke of it!!! … Shame on you. Throw the whole app-oligy away.”

Rihanna’s response to Snapchat’s “Slap Rihanna” ad
Rihanna’s response to Snapchat.

Snapchat maintains that the ad, which was made by a third party and not Snapchat itself, was approved erroneously, telling the BBC, “The advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines. We immediately removed the ad last weekend, once we became aware.”

While Snapchat isn’t responsible for making the ad, it is responsible for allowing it to slip by in violation of its own advertising policies, which explicitly prohibit “Shocking, sensational, or disrespectful content.” This lapse is just the latest in a string of puzzling choices the company has made in recent months, including standing behind a much-hated redesign of its interface that’s been driving away users. Judging by the outcry surrounding the “Slap Rihanna” ad — which included a condemnation from Chelsea Clinton — the company still hasn’t figured out the crucial lesson of not upsetting its user base.

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