Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Snapchat Can Be Sued Over Role In Fatal Car Crash, Court Rules

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As a joke, I sometimes would suggest that sharp curves on roads should be posted with a sign giving the highest speed to date someone has traversed the curve. I meant it as a service for those competing for a Darwin award. It was a joke.

But Snapchat seemed to have liked the idea in general. Bobby Allyn reports for NPR:

Three young men got into a car in Walworth County, Wis., in May 2017. They were set on driving at rapid speeds down a long, cornfield-lined road — and sharing their escapade on social media.

As the 17-year-old behind the wheel accelerated to 123 miles per hour, one of the passengers opened Snapchat.

His parents say their son wanted to capture the experience using an app feature — the controversial “speed filter” — that documents real-life speed, hoping for engagement and attention from followers on the messaging app.

It was one of the last things the trio did before the vehicle ran off the road and crashed into a tree, killing all of them.

Was Snapchat partially to blame? The boys’ parents think so. And, in a surprise decision on Tuesday, a federal appeals court ordered that the parents 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 intense debate among legal watchers about the future of a decades-old law that has shielded tech companies from civil lawsuits.

The boys’ parents sued Snap Inc., the maker of Snapchat, after the tragedy. They alleged that the company “knowingly created a dangerous game” through its filter and bore some responsibility.

The district court responded how courts usually do when a tech platform is sued in a civil lawsuit: by dismissing the case. The judge cited the sweeping immunity that social media companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The law provides legal immunity to tech companies from libel and other civil suits for what people post on sites, regardless of how harmful it may be.

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

Continue reading. There are more details of the decision, and they are interesting — partly because different courts have given different decisions in similar cases. Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2021 at 10:39 am

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