Snapchat Temporarily Defeats Another Case Over Its Speed Filter–Lemmon v. Snap

Snapchat’s speed filter “allows users to record their real-life speed, including as a driver or passenger, and overlay that speed onto a mobile photo or video. Snapchat users can then share, on social media, that mobile photo or video with their real-life speed as a ‘Snap…'” Allegedly, the speed filter motivates young drivers to drive unsafely and cause accidents, including this case’s tragic accident that cost 3 young men their lives. I’ve previously blogged the Maynard v. Snapchat case, another Snapchat speed filter case where the appellate court held that Section 230 did not immunize Snapchat.

The court dismisses this lawsuit with leave to amend:

Duty. The court says “the Court cannot determine that the harm from the Speed Filter was not foreseeable as a matter of law. Plaintiffs allege that it was a ‘game’ for Snap and its users to snap and share a 100 m.p.h. Snap. Plaintiffs further assert that accidents have occurred as a result of users attempting to capture such a Snap.” Snapchat’s warnings were allegedly inadequate.

Causation. The court says this is a “close call” but the plaintiffs’ allegations do not sufficiently connect the timing of the accident to when the speed filter was being used. An “encouragement” theory was also too thinly pled. The plaintiffs get another chance to plead this.

Section 230. The court talked about the relevant cases, including Maynard,, and Dyroff and concluded that “the critical issue is whether the Speed Filter should be considered content-neutral or not. In other words, the parties dispute whether the Speed Filter is more like dropdown menus and checkboxes, which affirmatively requires subscribers to disclose certain content, or more like a blank text boxes, which imposes no similar restrictions.”

Huh? I don’t understand this distinction at all. What does “content-neutral” even mean outside the Constitutional law context, and how is it relevant to Section 230’s applicability? The court implies that mandatory dropdown menus aren’t eligible for Section 230, even though that’s not what held; so my take is that Section 230 should apply to both of the scenarios the court poses as opposites. In any case, the court says it can’t resolve this self-developed murky standard on a motion to dismiss, so it encouraged the plaintiffs to build out this legal theory in their amended complaint and presumably will readdress Section 230 on the next round.

The plaintiffs did file an amended complaint. The court heard arguments over the new motion to dismiss this week and took the matter under advisement at the hearing. Another blog post on this case may be coming imminently.

Case citation: Lemmon v. Snap, Inc., 2019 WL 7882079 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2019)