A class-action lawsuit brought against Snapchat claims that the app is presenting minors with “sexually offensive content” without the consent of their parents.
Filed on Tuesday by attorney Mark J. Geragos, the lawsuit specifically targets Snapchat’s Discover section, home to third-party content from the app’s media partners.
Snapchat is painted throughout the complaint as a lewd social network, and at one point is described as having its roots in “surreptitious ‘sexting,’” which according to the suit, it still indirectly encourages minors to participate in.
In particular, it cites several articles from Discover content providers, including a piece by Vice entitled “People Share their Secret Rules for Sex,” and a Cosmopolitan piece with the heading “10 Things He Thinks When He Can’t Make You Orgasm,” among others.
“Snapchat’s terms of service, which are generally entered into directly by minors (who by law lack the capacity and consent to enter into contracts in the first place), includes no warnings about the offensive content on Snapchat Discover,” states the lawsuit.
The majority (69 percent) of Snapchat’s estimated 150 million users are believed to be between the ages of 18-24. A sizable number (estimated at 34.5 million) are thought to be aged between 13-17, according to the suit.
“The fact that Snapchat does not differentiate content offered to its minor users and adult users is problematic, and ultimately a violation of Federal and State consumer law,” claims the lawsuit.
Snapchat’s terms of service dictate that users must be at least 13 years of age to sign up to the app (the same age requirement applies to other social-media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook).
The plaintiff is described as a 14-year-old boy who lives in Los Angeles, California. His mother is identified as Lynette Young. The suit states that among the articles accessed by the boy was a BuzzFeed piece that used images of iconic Disney characters to describe sexual acts, and included “pornographic” captions and “innuendo.” The listicle was entitled: “23 Pictures That Are Too Real If You’ve Ever had Sex With A Penis.”
Geragos — who has previously represented celebrity clients including Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, and Chris Brown — claims the app’s violation of federal law should result in a civil penalty of up to a $50,000 a day. A hearing is yet to be scheduled for the case.
Snapchat said in a statement that it has been formally served the lawsuit. “We are sorry if people were offended. Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something that we support,” it added.