According to reports, social media giant Snapchat has been hit with a class-action lawsuit over sexual content. While perusing the app, the 14-year old son of Plaintiff Lynette Young apparently came across pictures of Disney characters that included “pornographic text and innuendo next to the photographs.” Young, presumably upset with her teenage son viewing images of cartoon characters admonished by sexual references, retained famed attorney Mark Geregos to sue Snapchat on her behalf as well as all others similarly situated.
The complaint, filed in California federal court, alleges that Snapchat failed to warn users about discoverable sexual content on its app. Specifically, the suit targets the “Discover” section of the app where users can browse content posted by media partners. In particular, the complaint identifies two articles titled, “People share their secret rules for sex” and “10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm,” as prime examples of this allegedly harmful content. Young alleges that such conduct is “profoundly sexual and offensive material to children” and in violation of the Consumer Decency Act. While Snapchat has yet to be served with the complaint, it has issued the following statement on the lawsuit:
We haven’t been served with a complaint in this lawsuit, but we are sorry if people were offended. Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something we support.
Just a couple of months ago, we here at Abnormal Use wrote about another Snapchat lawsuit in which the social media company was sued for allegedly causing a motor vehicle accident in which the at-fault motorist was distracted while using the application. We questioned the merits of that suit arguing that ultimate liability fell on the user. At first glance, the same may hold true here – with one caveat. Ultimately, social media sites are filled primarily with user-generated content, not so much content posted by the app maker itself. Some of this content you certainly may have a problem with children seeing if discovered. While this case is admittedly distinguishable in that does not arise over content posted by a “friend,” but rather by a “news” source, the principle is the same. A social media app in many ways is an extension of the Internet itself. User beware. All parents in this day in age know as much.
The caveat to this idea is that some of this allegedly offensive material at issue in this case comes through Snapchat’s Discover section. Snapchat denies having any control over this content, which may in fact be the case. While it may not control the content itself, it does control the Discover feature and, thus, presumably could do something to filter or, at a minimum, warn users of the sexual content. With that said, Snapchat still remains a bit of an anomaly to us, as we are apparently light years beyond the age of the average user. So, what do we know anyway? Remember that time, we did try out the app? It didn’t go so well.