Federal Appeals Court: Section 230 Does Not Protect Snapchat from Lawsuit Alleging Its’Speed Filter’ Caused Fatal Car Crash
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not immunize Snapchat from a lawsuit asserting its”Speed Filter” led to the deaths of two sons who died in a car accident while using the program to list themselves going 123 mph.
The suit was filed by the sons’ surviving parents and alleged the filter–that basically acts as a speedometer by grabbing a user’s speed over the social media program –has been negligently made and encouraged their kids to drive at discounted rates.
According to the suit, Jason Davis, 17, Hunter Morby, 17, and Landen Brown, 20, at 2017 were driving at high rates on Cranberry Road at Wisconsin when the vehicle ran off the street and hit a tree going approximately 113 miles and burst in flames. Before the crash, Brown had started the Snapchat Speed Filter on his cell phone.
Snapchat responded by asserting that the business was guarded by Section 230 since the Speed Filter is not anything more than a content production tool inside the platform that needs actual publishing to come from third party consumers. In short, the business contended that holding it accountable for making the filter would in effect be making it accountable for third party content in violation of law.
But a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday reversed Fitzgerald’s conclusion, reasoning that the central issue in the case concerned Snapchat’s product layout, not if it was accountable for content created and posted by users on the program.
“Plaintiffs’ negligent design suit treated Snap, Inc. as a products manufacturer, accusing it of negligently designing a product (Snapchat) with a flaw (that the interplay between Snapchat’s reward system and its own speed Filter); consequently, the responsibility that Snap, Inc. supposedly violated sprung from its own distinct capacity as a product developer,” the court said. “In short, Snap, Inc. was sued because of its predictable consequences of designing Snapchat in such a way that it allegedly encouraged hazardous behaviour. Thus, the panel concluded that Breeze, Inc. didn’t like immunity from this suit under? 230.”
According to the courtthe difference in the underlying conflict was critical since a cause of action against a manufacturer for negligent design requires a markedly distinct legal analysis than an action brought against a publisher as defined under the Communications Decency Act.
“It is so evident that the Parents’ amended complaint does not seek to maintain liable for its behavior as a publisher or speaker,” the court wrote. “Their hierarchical layout suit treats Snap as a products manufacturer, accusing it of negligently designing a product (Snapchat) with a flaw (that the interplay between Snapchat’s reward system as well as also the Speed Filter). Thus, the responsibility that Snap allegedly violated”springs from” its distinct capacity as a product designer”
The panel remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.
Read the entire judgment below.
9th Circuit Snapchat Sec. 230 Ruling by Law&Crime on Scribd
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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