Thursday 27 October 2016

Teenager sues Snapchat over 'obscene' and 'perverted' content

Madhumita Murgia

Published 08/07/2016 | 14:24

The Snapchat logo
The Snapchat logo

You may have thought Snapchat was just an app for sending disappearing photos, but it's turning into a media juggernaut, featuring editorial posts from companies such as Buzzfeed and Sky News in its "Discover" tab.

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The posts mostly contain news stories, videos and behind-the-scenes shots. But a Californian teenager, on behalf of his peers, has decided the content is too raunchy for kids. So he is suing the company, which has about 150m users, alleging "willful and intentional violations of the Communications Decency Act", specifically for "intentionally 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 posts singled out include one from Cosmopolitan titled "10 things he thinks when he can't make you orgasm", another titled "People share their secret rules for sex" and several other even more explicit examples.

The class action suit was filed by an anonymous "John Doe" who we know is 14 years old, from Los Angeles and enjoys history and science.

The teen raised his complaint when he came across a Buzzfeed post in the Discover tab. According to the filing, "Innocent pictures from John's favorite Disney movies were perverted into obscene sexual images and text."

The teen showed it to his mother, who was apparently "shocked and horrified" at the lack of warnings, filters or parental controls.

A Snapchat spokesperson said: "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."

Lawyer Ben Meiselas, at American Geragos and Geragos who is fighting case, pointed out to the BBC that Snapchat does not describe its Discover feature as an editorial platform. Instead they called it, "the result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first". They added: "This is not social media."

Several social media companies are currently trying to find a balance between being merely a platform for people to post individual content to, and becoming a more traditional media distributor for organisations, with allegations of censorship aimed at Facebook and others recently.

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