Snapchat
(Photo : Pexels/Thought Catalog) Snapchat lawsuit speed filter

Snapchat can be sued over a speed filter that is said to encourage reckless driving, despite the broad legal protections for social media networks.

Snapchat Speed Filter

The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court revived a case that was dismissed last year, reversing an earlier ruling that favored Snapchat.

According to The Verge, it concluded that even if users were populating the filter with their own high driving speeds, Snapchat could still be liable for implicitly rewarding that behavior.

The case, Lemmon v. Snap, was filed after a 20-year-old Snapchat user crashed his car while using the speed filter, at one point driving over 120 miles per hour.

The 2017 crash killed the driver and two teenage passengers. Two of the victims' parents sued Snapchat for wrongful death, saying that it is a combination of an opaque achievement system and speed filter enticed users to drive at unsafe speeds.

Also Read: Attorneys Allege That Snapchat's Speed Filter Is To Blame For Teen's High-Speed Car Wreck

The parents claimed that a lot of teenagers believed that they'd get a secret achievement for hitting speeds of 100 miles per hour.

Snapchat countered that there is no such achievement that existed and that it was just providing a tool for users to post their own content, an action shielded under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

After the case hearing, the Ninth Circuit did not rule on whether the platform was liable or not. But it concluded that it was not protected by Section 230, which prevents sites and apps from being sued over what users posts.

Instead, it said that the lawsuit presents a clear example of a claim that simply does not rest on third-party content.

Snapchat indisputably designed the reward system and speed filter, which allegedly created a defective product. This means that Snapchat was sued for the predictable consequences of designing the platform in such a way that it allegedly encouraged dangerous behavior.

Lower Court's Decision

In 2020, a lower court reached a different conclusion.

According to Eric Goldman, a legal blogger, the filter is a speedometer tool and noted that Snapchat warned users against driving at high speeds. The lawsuit was trying to hold Snapchat liable for a user acting dangerously posting about it.

Snapchat's speed filter has a bad history in court. An Uber driver sued the company in 2016 after he collided with a Snapchat user who allegedly tried to hit 100 miles per hour.

In that case, the court sided with the driver, but a Georgia appeals court reversed the decision and said Snapchat's speed filter was not made to encourage speeding.

Lemmon v. Snap's revival cites a landmark 2008 ruling against Roommates.com, which found that Section 230 did not apply when the site guided users to answer potentially discriminatory questions like racial preferences, even if users were the ones supplying the answers.

Roommates.com won the lawsuit, and Snapchat could prevail in this case, but Lemmon v. Snap would set a precedent for interpreting Section 230 unless the Supreme Court uses it, which it did not do for other Section 230-related cases.

Other high-profile suits have argued that a social network is defective for facilitating conduct like harassment, only to be defeated on Section 230 grounds.

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Written by Sophie Webster

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