It looks like Snapchat hasn’t been able to fully escape its prurient past.
A California mother on Thursday filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of her 14-year-old son that calls out the ephemeral messaging service for inappropriate content — and publishers including Vice, Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan have been caught in the crosshairs.
When reached for comment Friday, a Snapchat spokeswoman 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.”
The complaint, filed in California Central District Court, claimed that by engaging in conduct directed at minors — Snapchat, like Facebook, is open to those who are 13 and older — Snapchat is “reinforcing the use of its service to facilitate problematic communications, such as ‘sexting,’ between minors.”
It states that by curating and profiting from offensive content shared in its “Discover” section, without warning, Snapchat is violating the Communication Decency Act. It then goes on to list, and include images of, examples of recent content that is potentially offensive. And yes, the lawsuit does include a warning that the content is not suitable for minors.
Among the highlighted articles: “10 Things He Thinks When He Can’t Make You Orgasm,” including an image of two dolls having sex, and “14 Sex Problems Only Lesbians Understand” from Cosmopolitan magazine, and “People Share Their Secret Rules for Sex” and “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Penis Tattoos” from Vice.
The suit, from Geragos & Geragos in Los Angeles, states that “while adults should be free to consume any of this material, and may themselves find it to be humorous and witty, 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.”
Snapchat introduced its Discover section in January 2015 as a way to help users discover editorial content. In a post sharing the news, Snapchat said “it’s a result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media” and emphasized that, unlike social media, which relies on users to inform what is most popular, it “counts on editors and artists…to determine what’s important.”
Earlier this week, Snapchat introduced a new feature that is a major departure from its disappearing reputation. In the next few months, it said it would plan to roll out “Memories,” which let users save Snaps and Stories. Previously, all content disappeared within 24 hours.