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Opponents of Iran Deal Try to Reach Young Voters on Snapchat

AUG. 12, 2015

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    By ROBERT MACKEY

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    Speaking in favor of the international arms control agreement with Iran last week in Washington, President Obama warned that opponents of the deal would flood the airwaves with “tens of millions of dollars in advertising,” ahead of a congressional vote in September. He failed, however, to advise citizens who want to tune out the debate entirely to avoid not just their televisions but also Snapchat, the social messaging service popular with teenagers.

    As my colleague Nick Corasaniti reported, during the Republican debate in Ohio last week, as the candidates denounced the agreement, Snapchat users who opened the app in that state were offered the chance to weigh in by adding a filter to an image of themselves which would express “How I Feel About the Bad Iran Deal.”

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    The Iran Deal = Reply with your emoji for the #IranDeal! https://t.co/y5s1Ihaimf

    — Secure America Now (@SecureAmerica) Aug. 5, 2015

    While pictures shared on Snapchat are private, and designed to disappear after viewing, the group that paid for the campaign saved copies of some of the images made with it.

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    .@FarahChidiac's filter = Iran Deal = pic.twitter.com/OL8pAaGMX7

    — Secure America Now (@SecureAmerica) Aug. 6, 2015

    The Snapchat filter was the brainchild of a Texas strategist for conservative candidates and causes, Vincent Harris, on behalf of the campaign group Secure America Now. That group, which is officially nonpartisan, called for Mr. Obama to be impeached last year, and attempted to persuade voters in Florida to vote against him in 2012 with a commercial that featured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and suggested that the president was not tough enough on Iran.

    The aim of the Snapchat campaign, Mr. Harris explained in a telephone interview, was to raise awareness of the deal with “a demographic that Fox News cannot reach,” specifically “the under 25 crowd.” He called the effort a huge success, given that about 179,000 people used the filter in the 24 hours around the debate, to create images emblazoned with the message that appeared close to 2.5 million times on the platform, according to statistics provided by the company.

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    One day around the debate got us 179k uses and over 2 million impressions of the snapchat filter>> http://t.co/hupgM0JLjy @peard33

    — Vincent Harris (@VincentHarris) Aug. 11, 2015

    While the consultant behind the campaign was enthusiastic about the fact that the filter meant that “people were creating ads for us,” and pointed in particular to one response that seemed to equate the deal to a pile of horse dung, there seems to be no way of measuring how many subversive, off-message images might have been created by supporters of the deal. One young fan of Senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, posted an image on Twitter he created with the filter saying the deal made him feel “Safe.”

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    Cool ad @Snapchat pic.twitter.com/VmNmSThbt3

    — Sky ig (@skyreisinger) Aug. 6, 2015

    In fact, outside the @SecureAmerica feed, mentions of the campaign on Twitter were often critical or sarcastic in nature, suggesting that the filter might have backfired with at least some young people, who either disagreed with the message or were just unhappy about the intrusion of political advertising into a chat space more usually used for flirting and banter.

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    We have a Snapchat filter today only! Use it, take a picture and tweet it to us. pic.twitter.com/7WvrviR3QD

    — Secure America Now (@SecureAmerica) Aug. 5, 2015
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    @SecureAmerica lol no the Iran deal >>>> your snap chat filter

    — Dillon Engelbrecht (@DillonLee626) Aug. 6, 2015
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    The fact that they made a filter or whatever saying "how I feel about the bad Iran deal" on snapchat infuriates me. Why is this a thing?

    — Mariam Ahmadian (@mariam231) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Proud to be on advisory board of group doing this: @SecureAmerica - Snapchat's Weird New Political Ad Is Evil Genius http://t.co/a6L804adLF

    — Christian Whiton (@ChristianWhiton) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Extremely disappointed in @Snapchat that they let that sponsored anti Iran deal filter go live.

    — Aditya Roy-Chaudhury (@AdityaRoyC) Aug. 6, 2015
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    I'm really excited about the Iran Deal filter on Snapchat lol

    — Hayley (@hjclark21) Aug. 6, 2015
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    republicans must be really desperate if they have to install a filter on snapchat about the iran deal

    — julia (@officialjibbles) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Getting a huge kick out of the "how I feel about the bad Iran deal" geotag on snapchat @PeterKoltak

    — Mike (@thekevkoltak) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Straight up why is there a snapchat filter saying the BAD Iran deal?

    — nr (@Nathan_Rein) Aug. 6, 2015
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    How I feel about the bad Iran deal pic.twitter.com/lxCOwfEMCP

    — ya boy (@KaneKevinkane) Aug. 10, 2015
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    @Snapchat bad iran deal? Couldn't just have said The iran deal.... pic.twitter.com/qqoCgHmxba

    — alexander supertramp (@mina_cherr) Aug. 7, 2015
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    hey @Snapchat you should screen your filters better... this "bad Iran deal" thing is a joke. or maybe balance it out? idk

    — Chelsea Hill (@chels_c_hill) Aug. 7, 2015
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    I am not well informed about the Iran deal. However, Snapchat being involved is bizarre and pathetic.

    — Adam Mitchell (@AdamMitchell_24) Aug. 7, 2015
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    LOLing so hard at the "Bad Iran Deal" snapchat filter. Nice try, GOP.

    — Emily ☼ (@EmUnderation) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Thank you, Snapchat... No one has... *sniffles* ...ever asked me how I felt about the bad Iran deal

    — Adam Edwards (@adamedwards41) Aug. 6, 2015
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    Am I the only one who thinks the "bad Iran deal" snapchat filter yesterday was stupid?

    — Ben (@BenKehres) Aug. 7, 2015

    Asked about the Twitter response, Mr. Harris wrote in an email that, “the filter successfully got people talking about an issue they normally would never have known about or engaged with.” Twitter, he added, “is an outlet for the opinionated :).”

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