Court Rules Snapchat Can be Sued Over Alleged Role in Fatal Car Crash

An illustration picture taken on March 22, 2018 in Paris shows a close-up of the Snapchat logo in the eye of an AFP staff member posing while she looks at a flipped logo of Snapchat. / AFP PHOTO / Christophe SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty

This week, a federal appeals court ruled that the parents of three young teenagers who died in a car crash while using Snapchat’s “speed filter,” should have the right to sue Snap over what they claim is the platform’s role in the accident.

NPR reports that in May 2017, three young men were driving at rapid speeds down a long, cornfield-lines road in Walworth County, Wisconsin.

While the 17-year-old driver of the vehicle accelerated to 123 miles per hour, one of the men opened the Snapchat app on his phone where he used the app’s highly controversial “speed filter,” which displays the users’ current speed on-screen to document the drive.

The vehicle then ran off the road and crashed into a tree, killing all three young men immediately. Now, a federal appeals court has ordered that the parents of the young men should have the right to sue Snap Inc.

The ruling, from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has set off an intense debate about the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), the decades-old law that has shielded tech firms from civil lawsuits.

The boys’ parents sued Snap Inc., the developer behind Snapchat, after the tragedy. The parents alleged that the company “knowingly created a dangerous game” through its filter and therefore bore some responsibility for the crash.

The district court responded by dismissing the case. The judge cited the immunity that social media companies enjoy under Section 230 of the CDA. The law provides legal immunity to tech firms from libel and other civil suits for what people post on their platforms.

But, the appeal court’s decision paves a way around this law, saying that it doesn’t apply because this case is not about what someone posted to Snapchat but rather the design of the app itself.

The parents are claiming that Snapchat’s speed filter entices young people to drive at reckless speeds and the federal appeals court said that Snap should be treated like any other company that makes a product that can lead to injury or harm to consumers.

Read more at NPR here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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