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John Doe is a 14-year-old kid in Los Angeles who gets good grades, likes history and science, and uses Snapchat to communicate with friends. But on July 1, he came across a (NSFW) BuzzFeed piece via Snapchat’s Discover feature headlined “23 Pictures That Are Too Real If You’ve Ever Had Sex With A Penis.” The story places sexual captions like “When he came way harder than you expected” beneath images of Disney classics like Aladdin, reports Teen Vogue. When he swiped to the next story, he encountered a Vice feature with the headline, “What It Is Really Like to Let People Finger You in Public.” So the boy and his mother, Lynette Young, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief that includes barring Snapchat from engaging in these practices and requiring a corrective ad campaign.
At the heart of the lawsuit is how involved Snapchat is in its Discover feature, which is integrated into the chat platform that the lawsuit claims “controls and curates” content with media partners including BuzzFeed, MTV, and Cosmopolitan. By promoting the kind of content John Doe encountered, renowned attorney Mark Geragos accuses Snapchat of perpetuating an “insidious pattern and practice of intentionally exposing minors to harmful, offensive, prurient, and sexually offensive content, without”—and this is key—”warning minors or their parents that they would be exposed,” reports Mashable. The suit calls this a violation of the Communications Decency Act that requires said notification in their service agreement, reports Variety. Snapchat says it has yet to be served with a complaint but is “sorry if people were offended.”