U.S. Federal Court Forces Snapchat to Remove Its “Speed Filter”

Don’t we all need a slight push to rectify our mistakes every once in a while? Well, looks like something similar just happened to Snap Inc. too.

Paul Smith/Unsplash | Snapchat Inc. has removed its “speed filter” following orders from a US federal court

Recently, Snapchat’s parent company – Snap Inc. – removed its “speed filter” which displayed how fast a user was traveling when taking a picture or video. The filter, which came into sight in 2013, was removed over claims of less usage. And here we thought only regular people like us can take a while to get a hint!

But the limited usage was obviously not the sole reason for the decision. There was a legal angle to the whole ordeal. 

Nothing is above the law

Over the years, several lawsuits have been filed against the speed filter feature for its direct or indirect involvement in accidents and deaths. Among the well-known instances that led to filings were the passing of three young women in February 2016 who were moving at a speed of 70 mph, a woman in March 2018 who was driving a Mini Cooper at 106 mph, and the tragic accident that killed five people in October 2016 after their Volkswagen Golf crashed at 115.6 mph. In each of these incidents, the speed filter feature played an important role since either the driver or the passenger was using it right before crashing. 

Toine G/Unsplash | Over the years, several lawsuits have been filed against Snapchat’s speed filter for its direct or indirect involvement in over-speeding accidents and deaths

Though Snapchat decided to show a safety message of “don’t snap and drive” on the screens in light of the stir, that didn’t stop people from using the feature. 

In May 2021, when a federal court declared that family members of the people who’d been killed in such mishaps could sue Snap Inc., the company removed the filter immediately. The three-judge panel said that since the filter was “a part of the app and not a user’s content,” Snap Inc. couldn’t hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

They also criticized the company’s faulty rewarding policy by saying that the basic design of the app, which rewards people for snaps, was flawed. Since the company doesn’t tell its users the right way of earning rewards, it’s influencing them towards taking the wrong steps. They said it’s like a game to youngsters who drive at unbelievable speed and capture their performance. 

The court commented that Snapchat should have known the repercussions of this kind of negative awarding system. It should have acted as soon as it saw the filter causing irreparable damage. 

Mauro Sbicego/Unsplash | Mauro Sbicego/Unsplash | In May 2021 a US federal court criticized Snapchat for its flawed feature that pushes users to drive at extreme speeds to earn reward points

Wrapping it up

Though the company has now removed the filter, can it be forgiven for the loss of lives their feature caused? Does the company guarantee that it will take a closer look at its creations in the future? Currently, it’s difficult to answer those questions, but perhaps over time, we’ll be able to get a hint.

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