Snapchat Intentionally Exposes Teens to Sexual Content With Discover Feature: Federal Lawsuit

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Snapchat’s Discover section is shown in a file photo. The content section was introduced in January 2015. (Credit: Snapchat)

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Snapchat doesn’t do enough to warn teenagers and parents about sexual content on its app, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by celebrity attorney Mark Geragos on behalf of a family.

The suit concerns articles hosted on Snapchat, including “People share their secret rules for sex” and “10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm.” Such material is “adult-rated content that parents would likely prohibit” had they known it’s found without restrictions on Snapchat, according to the lawsuit.

One the world’s highest-valued technology start-ups at an estimated $16 billion, Snapchat primarily serves as a forum for friends to trade messages, photos and videos. But last year, the Venice company began promoting articles and videos from several media companies, including BuzzFeed, MTV and Cosmopolitan magazine. The articles can be forwarded to other users – of whom there are at least 150 million each day, with an estimated 25% under age in the U.S.

Though Snapchat's terms of service warn users not to send sexually explicit messages, the document doesn’t warn that they might encounter offensive content on Discover, where articles and videos are found. And it doesn’t tell people that there might be ways – such as third-party monitoring software – for minors to avoid the inappropriate material. To sign up for Snapchat, users must say they are at least 13 years old (the same minimum age at competitors such as Facebook and Twitter).

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