Snap is deleting its contentious “speed filter” from Snapchat this week. Many critics have alleged that the in-app impact encourages reckless driving, with some even claiming that Snap should be held accountable when the speed filter is linked to fatal vehicle accidents.
Several lawsuits have been filed over the years linking Snapchat to traffic accidents. One, involving an automobile collision in Georgia in 2015, was released just a few years after Snapchat was modified to add the filter. Since then, the business has downgraded the filter to a sticker, buried it in a separate menu, and made it a little more difficult to use.
Snap might be sued for the speed filter / sticker’s role in car accidents, according to the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court. The court said that Snap isn’t covered by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects firms from being sued over anything users post on their platforms.
Fatal Car Accidents Have Been Linked To The ‘Speed Filter’
A driver in Georgia suffered irreversible brain damage as a result of a 2015 collision involving the speed filter. In the same year, the film was linked to the deaths of three young ladies in an automobile accident in Philadelphia. Five persons were killed in a high-speed collision in Florida in 2016 that purportedly involved the speed filter. Three young men from Wisconsin hit a speed of 123 miles per hour on the feature in 2017 before colliding with a tree and dying.
Snap responded by making a few tweaks. In Snapchat, it changed the speed feature from a “filter” to a “sticker,” diminishing its importance. It also included a “Don’t Snap and Drive” warning that appeared every time the feature was activated.
The company also discreetly set a limit of 35 mph for the top speed at which a post could be shared for “driving speeds.” When NPR asked about it in May, a Snap spokesperson acknowledged that the restriction had been put in place. Despite this, the company kept the filter on hand.
The legal disputes are still going on. In a complaint filed against Snap over the speed filter, Naveen Ramachandrappa, a California lawyer, claimed that some teenage Snap users believed they would be awarded with digital prizes and medals if they recorded a speed of more than 100 miles per hour.
In May, a federal appeals court determined that the families of the young men killed in the Wisconsin incident can sue Snap for negligence in developing a device that caused foreseeable harm. Snap petitioned the trial court to dismiss the case this week, claiming that the speed filter was not at blame for the vehicle collision.
The speed option barely registers in terms of popularity among the 5 billion “snaps” users take every day, which is why Snap officials say it is eliminating the capability.
Irina Raicu, the director of Santa Clara University’s Internet Ethics Program, noted that tech companies are increasingly doing risk evaluations of new products and services in order to anticipate potential abuses.
“If you have a new tool or feature: What does it allow? What does it invite? And what does it incentivize? There are degrees of responsibility based on those three things,” she said. “This Snapchat filter seems like maybe it was missing some of those conversations initially.”
“Sometimes,” added Raicu, “one of the most thoughtful ways to deploy a product is to never deploy it at all.”