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Snapchat sued for exposing minors to ‘sexually offensive content’

Fri 8 Jul 2016

A Californian teen is suing Snapchat for ‘intentionally exposing’ youngsters to sexual and offensive content without warning them or their parents.

The app, which counts around 150 million users, is primarily a platform for sending disappearing photos, but has recently turned its efforts to editorial, publishing posts from the likes of Buzzfeed and Sky News in the ‘Discover’ tab. While this section mainly contains news stories and behind-the-scenes footage, the lead videos often include explicit titles such as ‘10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm,’ and ‘People share their secret rules for sex.’

Now, the 14-year old anonymous ‘John Doe’ is alleging ‘wilful and intentional violations of the Communications Decency Act’. He argues that Snapchat is knowingly exposing minors to ‘harmful, offensive, prurient, and sexually offensive content, without warning minors or their parents that they would be exposed to such explicit content.’

The class action suit was filed after the plaintiff from Los Angeles came across a Discover feature in which ‘innocent pictures from John’s favorite Disney movies were perverted into obscene sexual images and text.’ The teen showed the content to his mother who was ‘shocked and horrified’ at the lack of ‘warning, filters, or parental control.’

‘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 that we support,’ a Snapchat spokesperson responded.

Lawyer Ben Meiselas, from U.S. law firm Geragos & Geragos, which is taking on the case, told the BBC that Snapchat does not specify its Discover tab as an editorial platform. It rather describes the feature as ‘the result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first.’

The lawsuit is calling for an injunction that would require Snapchat to warn users about adult content, and to provide parents with the option to block anything they deem inappropriate. The suit is also demanding disgorgement of hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue, as well as compensatory damages and more.

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