On July 7, Snapchat offered a glimpse of life in Tel Aviv with "Live Story," a feature that lets users who are in the same location contribute their personal videos, or “snaps”, to the same story.
Users in Tel Aviv shared videos of themselves lying around beaches, walking through food markets and enjoying meals along the coast.
But after glancing at the joyful shots, many users criticized Snapchat for presenting the city without any mention of its Palestinian neighbors and asked the network to show what life is like on the other side of the conflict.
Snapchat quickly responded to the backlash. On Thursday, it featured snaps on its live story with multicolored text that read “West Bank Life” in Arabic. The discussion continued on social media as many rejoiced after the stories landed on the app.
Many snaps from both Tel Aviv and the West Bank highlighted details that shed light on the cities’ beauty and diversity.
One Tel Aviv user shared a video pointing to a street sign and said, “This is how the street sign looks here in Tel Aviv. You have it in Hebrew, Arabic and English.” While plenty of the West Bank stories showed how fasting Muslims passed the time during Ramadan.
Because Snapchat moderates which videos make it to the Live Story stream, Palestinians on social media were initially angry that the Tel Aviv snaps didn’t include any footage related to the conflict.
But it seems Snapchat took their grievances into consideration. Along with funny videos of people dancing and cats playing, the West Bank story also included snaps of Palestinians crossing through checkpoints and driving along the Israel West Bank barrier.
The more the live stories gain traction on social media, the more users want to get on board. “After learning about #WestBankLive on Twitter this morning, I signed up for Snapchat,” wrote Wired's Emily Dreyfuss.
The hashtag #MeccaLive has also been trending on Twitter as others in the region are asking Snapchat to feature Mecca on its app on July 13. In Islam, the day commemorates the moment the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.
Snapchat’s live stories are becoming increasingly popular. The app’s Twitter account shows posts from users who praised the network for exposing them to different parts of the world.
The tool also feature live stories that touch on global events, such as the “Gay Pride” snaps that presented users celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling for same-sex marriage all over the world.
When the majority of Greek voters cast their ballots to reject greater austerity measures on Sunday, Snapchat also featured a live story documenting the historic event. The snaps even came with graphics that summed up the debt crisis and its effects on the nation.
With its colorful filters, celebratory slogans and themed cartoons, Snapchat’s live stories offer an unconventional platform for citizen journalism that brings the world into the hands of its users. All they have to do is swipe left.