Is Snapchat providing sexual content to minors?

A 14-year-old boy and his mother have filed a lawsuit against Snapchat for providing 'profoundly sexual content'

News Desk July 11, 2016
Logo of the image sharing app. PHOTO: REUTERS.

Snapchat, the hugely popular image sharing app is in the news again and it’s not because of a new feature the app has added to improve user experience, but for providing sexual content to children.

A 14-year-old boy and his mother have filed a lawsuit against Snapchat citing that the app's 'Discover' service routinely provides minors with sexually explicit content without warning them or their parents.

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The lawsuit was taken up by famous attorney Mark Geragos on Thursday and cited the violation of Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law intended to regulate pornographic material on the internet.

Snapchat gained popularity as a “sexting” app since originally the application allowed users to exchange pictures that would automatically be deleted after a set time period. However, the app branched out in 2015 to allow major brands such as Buzzfeed and MTV to put up multimedia content.

The plaintiff, who maintained anonymity, complained that the 14-year-old boy was exposed to Disney characters engaging in sexual acts. The article also mentioned a long list of articles with objectionable content.

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"Millions of parents in the United States today are unaware that Snapchat is curating and publishing profoundly sexual and offensive content to their children," the lawsuit says. "By engaging in such conduct directed at minors, and making it simple and easy for users to 'snap' each other content from Snapchat Discover, Snapchat is reinforcing the use of its service to facilitate problematic communications, such as 'sexting,' between minors. Snapchat has placed profit from monetising Snapchat Discover over the safety of children."

The image sharing app is listed on Apple’s AppStore as appropriate for users over 12. However, the material on its Discover service, which is viewed without warning, is not appropriate for children of that age.

"We haven't been served with a complaint in this lawsuit, but we are sorry if people were offended," a Snapchat spokesman said in a statement. "Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something that we support."

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The lawsuit demands penalties to be imposed on the app as well as in-app warnings to be installed that warn users before giving access to any sexual content.

This article originally appeared on CNET.


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