Miami has two popular Snapchat accounts. One is controlled by the university and spotlights on-campus events and study abroad trips. The other tends to depict things the university does not endorse — chiefly, nudity, illegal drug use and illegal alcohol use amongst students.
Redhawk Snaps, run anonymously, was likely inspired by the University of Cincinnati-area Bearcat Snaps. The latter’s account boasts over 30,000 views a day, and its owner (an anonymous UC student) said that Redhawk Snaps reached out to them for advice on starting their own account.
In addition to nudes and cocaine, the Snapchat also chronicles day parties from Friday to Sunday and, during the week, alternates between familiar scenes at King Library and Brick Street. But it doesn’t just document non-events; on Feb. 25, when a man visiting from Chicago was critically injured in a fight outside The Woods, Redhawk Snaps’ followers watched it play out in a series of photos.
“It went from, there’s a fight, there’s a guy on the ground, there’s cops, there’s ambulances, there’s a helicopter life-flighting somebody away in, like, five Snaps,” said sophomore Jacob Veta.
Veta, who discovered the account through his roommate’s recommendation, said he doesn’t think it’s necessarily a positive nor negative thing for the university.
“I think it’s mostly just a thing,” said Veta. “People are liking subscribing to it, it’s mildly entertaining sometimes, but there’s a lot of weird stuff that goes down on there, too.”
It’s the “weird stuff” that concerns Steve Smith, a Cincinnati media expert who spoke on WLWT News in Cincinnati when they ran a story last month about Bearcat Snaps posting naked photos without their subjects’ consent.
WLWT later removed the story from their social media accounts and website following intense backlash from fans of the account, who argued that Bearcat Snaps wasn’t guilty of showcasing “revenge porn” (nude photos shared in confidence but redistributed without consent of their subjects) and ensured that any naked photos they posted featured people over 18.
Bearcat Snaps’ operator said that since Snapchats can only be taken and sent in the moment (they don’t accept photos from camera rolls), this prevents old photos from being shared with them. They also require people submitting photos with any nudity to send their I.D. beforehand to prove they’re over 18, and cede that while they have unknowingly posted photos without consent before, they removed them immediately after being notified and blocked their senders.
Smith was notified of Bearcat Snaps and others of its kind, like Redhawk Snaps, by a guidance counselor at a Cincinnati high school. He’s concerned about the accounts’ potential to affect people in the future, and how much content featuring illegal activity or nudity is posted with the subjects’ knowledge and consent.
“While I don’t doubt that some of the content there was placed by what I would call the copyright holder, I know some of it definitely is not,” said Smith. “What I refer to it as is a tremendous opportunity for revenge porn, and while a lot of the porn that is on there doesn’t necessarily include men or women’s faces, some of it does.”
Shortly after witnessing one of Redhawk Snaps’ stories for the first time, junior Gabi Pezoa said that, while there is an “element of consent” to these images, they’re probably not boding well for Miami’s public image.
“Snapchat is probably better than a lot of apps in terms of privacy and being able to monitor those kinds of security breaches, but it’s definitely a concern,” said Pezoa.
Smith said that, after analyzing several Ohio colleges’ similar accounts, Bearcat Snaps was “by far the worst,” in terms of how much inappropriate (and illegal) content was displayed. But Redhawk Snaps is similar, and Smith urges its users to reconsider posting revealing photos of themselves or photos of them engaging in illegal activity.
According to Smith, 88 percent of “inappropriate” photos wind up in the possession of someone who wasn’t intended to see them, and while it may seem like Snapchats only last a maximum of 10 seconds, it’s easy to screenshot, save and potentially distribute them — especially on accounts like Redhawk Snaps, which is public and open for anyone to view.
“I can’t underscore this enough,” said Smith. “This generation is the first generation that has to be concerned not just about what they’re posting, but what other people are posting about them.”