Snapchat upgraded from being a simple app to being a messaging app, video sharing and a news app. Including its face-swapping, dog-masking revolution in online communications.All these are fun no doubt but have allowed indescency creep into it. And giving the fact that it’s a highly preferable app by teens, it’s putting them at risk. That’s what’s at the centre of an intriguing lawsuit made public on Thursday, by a 14 year old.
It focuses on the Discover function of Snapchat, a section in which publishers are falling over themselves to be seen.It’s here where content made exclusively for Snapchat (in portrait orientation) comes from the likes of the Daily Mail, Vice, Buzzfeed and others*, and users are highly encouraged to read through stories and watch videos from those publications. Stories such as “10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm” from Cosmopolitan magazine.
That’s just one example given in the lawsuit.(If curiosity calls, the full complaint document lists a few more examples,republished here by The Verge.) The problem is they are pushing this content without informing nor considering children.
“Millions of parents in the United States today are unaware that Snapchat is curating and publishing this profoundly sexual and offensive content to their children,” reads the lawsuit, filed by “John Doe”, a 14 year old from Los Angeles. State law means he has been made anonymous, although we know he apparently has “good grades”. In US law, a class-action lawsuit allows one party – in this case “John Doe” – to represent a potentially much larger group of people who could be compensated if Snapchat was to lose or settle the case.
On Thursday Snapchat proclaimed in this brief statement that,
“We are sorry if people were offended,” a spokesman wrote in an email. “Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something that we support.”
It’s normally wise for social networks to argue, as they often do, that they are a platform. Doing so offers a highly effective defence in cases where users of any kind post material that upsets people for whatever reason. This lawsuit is somewhat of a rite of passage – the inevitable reaction to a network that has become so pervasive and influential over young people thereby leading to its multi million dollar revenue.
The lawsuit is asking for $50,000 per violation.
As mentioned, it’s class-action, and so a win for 14 year old John Doe could pave the way for many Snapchat users to be compensated. A big cost to Snapchat, to both its pocket and reputation, should they lose