Snapchat Facing Lawsuit for Peddling Sex to Teens

Before we get into the nitty gritty meat of this article, we first have to understand how advertising developed on Snapchat.
Snapchat is constantly making improvements to their wildly successful social platform. Just recently, they've added the Memories feature and expanded Discover by adding curated content and themed stories. The stories are aggregated by different publishers, including BuzzFeed, Vice, People, and IGN for starters.

Initially, before Snapchat added the bells and whistles, teenagers were the first to utilise the app, flooding their friends with snaps galore. At this early stage of development, advertising was nearly nonexistent. Snapchat hadn't made its mark quite yet. After a foothold was established with millennials (and a very strong one at that), certain things were strategically added, like stickers that pop up via geofiltering or wacky filters/lenses that expire by day's end. It wasn't until the addition of these stickers and filters that advertising first reared its unbounded, inevitable head.

McDonald's uses Snapchat's geofiltering stickers to advertise (
According to Snapchat, their platform is used by 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds everyday. That's a massive reach that brands simply cannot afford to ignore. In a devilishly clever move, Snapchat charges an arm and a leg for advertising. On the lower end of the spectrum is online promotions, costing tens of thousands of dollars, whereas filters/lenses net anywhere from $100,000 to $750,000. Apparently, these ads are bought for a 24-hour period as a rule. That's exorbitant! ... but somehow it's working. I'd caution a guess that this has been a part of Snapchat's master plan all along.

Nowadays, special filters, stickers and video ads seem native to the Snapchat experience. Everyone from Taco Bell to Cadbury is taking advantage of the uniquely immersive advertising opportunity that is Snapchat. Additionally, considering that saved Snaps surface across most every other social media platform, companies can expect a decent amount of free publicity.

This new method of advertising bumped Snapchat up in the world, making it a household name rather than a teenage speciality. Upon revamping Discover, advertising opportunities topped company prospects almost overnight. Suddenly, curated content reigned supreme as editorial teams representing such-and-such company put out specialised and themed content on the Discover bar. Naturally, these editorial teams come from big name brands like MTV, Cosmopolitan, Mashable and others.

The funny thing about something as disparate as Snapchat is that ads have to be made on the spot to suit the platform. Teams must be assembled to make an imaginative, original, appealing ad experience that will spell enjoyment for Snapchatters. Now, user numbers burgeon with late-adopters, also known as the older generation. This has led to a bit of an upset.

Now that we've had our daily dose of history (yes, Snapchat history still counts), let's talk about the scandal. Snapchat is facing a class-action lawsuit for displaying sexually explicit content on Discover. This doesn't seem like a huge problem, excepting for the large number of underage users who patrol for new content on the regular.

The 14 year-old plaintiff and his mother, represented by Mark Geragos, are suing Snapchat for regularly promoting inappropriate content to unwitting minors. In response to the outrage, Snapchat responded with this statement via email to The Verge: "we are sorry if people were offended. Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something we support." Honestly, that isn't going to cut it Snapchat.

The class action lawsuit, filed on 7 July in the central district of California, claims that Discover violates the Communications Decency Act. Snapchat claims that publishers have free reign over their content, but, according to current partners, Snapchat does have a say on the finished product.

Articles named in the lawsuit:
1. Cosmopolitan - "10 Things He Thinks When He Can't Make You Orgasm"
2. BuzzFeed - "23 Pictures That Are Too Real if You've Ever Had Sex with a Penis"
3. Vice - "I Got High, Blown, and Robbed When I Was a Pizza Delivery Guy"
4. Vice - "F**k Buddies talk About How They Kept It Casual"

These articles, while quite intriguing to those 18 and older, are completely inappropriate for the 13-17 year-old audience who make up 23% of users; but, for the 37% of users aged 18-24, these articles are right on the money.

Currently, the app's rating is Teen 12+ and no parental controls are available to restrict content for younger users. In the terms of use, it states that "No one under 13 is allowed to create an account or use the Services. We may offer additional Services with additional terms that may require you to be even older to use them." These additional services and terms are not in effect, and, from the sound of the lawsuit, introducing some measures to prevent young users from viewing this content is the true goal. So, rather than nix juicy, clickable content from publishing, suitable content should be available to the right audiences.

Here you can find the full 32-page complaint.

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