Snapchat sees spike in 1-star reviews as users use ‘My AI’ feature and call for it to be removed

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The user reviews for Snapchat’s “My AI” feature are in — and they’re not good. Snapchat’s new AI chatbot, powered by OpenAI’s GPT technology, launched to global users last week after initially being added only for subscribers. Now it’s pinned to the top of the app’s Chat tab, where users can ask questions and get instant answers. But following the chatbot’s rollout to Snapchat’s wider community, the Snapchat app has seen a spike in negative reviews amid a growing number of complaints being shared on social media.

Last week, Snapchat’s average US App Store review was 1.67, with 75% of reviews being one star, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. By comparison, in the first quarter of 2023, the average Snapchat rating on the US App Store was 3.05, with only 35% of ratings being one star.

The number of daily reviews has also increased fivefold in the past week, the company noted.

Another app data provider, Apptopia, reports a similar trend. The analysis shows that “AI” was the top keyword in Snapchat’s App Store reviews over the past seven days, where it was mentioned 2,973 times. The company has given the term an “Impact Score” score of -9.2. This Impact Score is a weighted index that measures the effect of a term on sentiment and ranges from -10 to +10.

Apptopia also said that on April 20, 2023, Snapchat received about 3x more one-star reviews than usual. That’s the day after the worldwide release of My AI was announced.

Now the number of one-star reviews is starting to drop a bit, but they still remain high.

Image Credits: Apptopia (analysis of Snapchat app reviews)

The backlash against Snapchat’s My AI comes at a time when the hype around AI is at a turning point. Companies are weighing how to integrate AI into their business, not if they should.

For Snap, adding an AI chatbot to its social app would have been a smart move as dozens of AI chatbot apps fill the app stores and rake in millions of dollars — a signal that can be easily interpreted to indicate growing demand from consumers to AI social chat experiences.

But many Snapchat users are not happy with My AI, which appeared in their app without warning or permission.

Image Credits: Snapchat screenshot

To some extent, it is the placement of the chatbot that is of concern.

My AI is pinned to the top of users’ chat feed in the app and cannot be unpinned, blocked, or deleted like other conversations can. Snapchat users regularly interact with friends in this feed, and it’s not necessarily a place they want to play with experimental features. Plus, Snapchat already has an established presence in this feed with its own “Team Snapchat” chats, and now it’s doubling the screen space it wants to take up for itself – or so some users see it.

It’s not hard to find complaints about the My AI feature on social media. A simple search for “My AI” on Twitter, for example, yields numerous results. Users also share their complaints directly to Snapchat.

After the announcement of the new chatbot in a tweet last week at Snap’s Partner Summit event, users took to the answers to address their grievances.

In dozens of responses to Snap’s tweet, users pan the AI ​​bot completely. They say it should only be opt-in or they should be given the option to remove it, rather than having it forced on them. Some users are so upset that they even threaten to leave Snapchat for this and delete the app completely.

Many also insist that removing the My AI from their Chat feed requires a Snapchat+ subscription. According to Snap’s own documentation, Snapchat+ subscribers will get early access to new My AI features and can unpin or remove My AI from their chats.

This angers people who now feel they have to pay Snapchat after it messed up their app with an unwanted feature.

Not only do users find the AI ​​feature invasive, some find it scary.

They’re surprised to learn that Snapchat’s AI, for example, knows their location and can use that information in its replies, even if they don’t share their location on the Snap Map.

In a way, the AI ​​bot shows the level of personal data collection that social media companies are doing in the background, placing it directly in front of the consumer. As it turns out, that’s not a great selling point if the users don’t feel like they specifically chose to share that data with the AI.

This speaks to a larger debate that is now taking place around AI as people become aware that it is our own data and our work creating information for the web that has made these AI systems in the first place to arise. Modern AIs are trained on large data sources, including those they are licensed for, as well as publicly available data on the internet and our personal information.

Additionally, Snapchat’s My AI was already the subject of serious concerns before its public rollout.

While available as a subscriber-only feature, The Washington Post reported that the bot responded in an insecure manner. After telling the bot that the user was 15 years old, the AI ​​made suggestions to mask the smell of alcohol and weed at a birthday party. It also wrote an essay for school for the teen. When the bot was told the user was 13, it responded to a question about how to set the mood when having sex for the first time, the newspaper reported.

Snap downplayed the claims at the time, saying some people had tried to “trick the chatbot into providing answers that didn’t follow our guidelines.” However, it then rolled out new tools, including age filters to make the AI ​​responses more age-appropriate, and promised parental controls were on the way.

Those parental controls still weren’t available at the time of My AI’s public launch, and Snap didn’t provide an update on when to expect them.

Despite the numerous complaints, there were a handful of dissenters about the backlash over My AI.

“Am I the only one who likes it?” early one user in the replies to Snapchat’s tweet. Only one person responded to them and just said “yo”.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower (analysis of Snapchat app reviews)

Going into the spike in negative reviews, it becomes clear that Snapchat’s app ratings aren’t even telling the full story here.

For example, a graph from Sensor Tower shows that five-star reviews also spiked in recent days alongside the one-star reviews where users complained about the My AI feature. That would lead one to believe the AI ​​feature is divisive, rather than widespread.

But a closer inspection of those five-star reviews indicates that many of them also include My AI complaints. For example, they threaten with “Down with AI. Or I change my review to a star. Nobody wants AI on Snapchat.”

Image Credits: Sensor Tower (analysis of Snapchat app reviews)

Several other five-star reviews demand that the AI ​​be blocked or removed, call it creepy or “crap” and yet the user still rated the app five stars. It’s unclear if that’s due to user error, problems with Sensor Tower analysis, or something else. In any case, some of these “5-star” reviews should be considered negative reviews or complaints, based on their actual comments.

Still, scrolling through the App Store reviews sorted by “Most Recent” shows just how many complaints there are. Almost all of the new reviews have something to say about My AI, and the majority are not good.

Snapchat declined to comment on the situation, but noted that Snapchat+ users sent nearly 2 million chats to the AI ​​during early testing.

The company says it’s constantly iterating Snapchat’s features based on community feedback, but hasn’t committed to removing the AI.

Instead, a Snapchat spokesperson said that if users don’t like the AI ​​feature, they don’t need to use it.

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