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Court: Not so Fast, Snapchat

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Christal McGee was driving over 100 miles an hour and thought it would be a good time to take a Snapchat photo.

She crashed, causing permanent brain damage to Wentworth Maynard. He was in the car she hit, and he sued -- Snapchat.

An appeals court said Maynard and his wife have a case because Snapchat created a filter that allows users to superimpose speed over photos. Basically, the company should have known better and so should everyone else who uses technology recklessly.

No CDA Immunity

At first, a trial judge dismissed the lawsuit under the Communications Decency Act. The law provides immunity for internet service providers from liability for third-party content.

Snapchat was immune, the trial judge said, because the speedometer information came from a third-party provider. The Maynards argued on appeal, however, that Snapchat was liable for its filter superimposing the information on Snap photos.

The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed and reversed. The judges noted that the CDA protects publishers for the "display" of third-party content, and that's not what the plaintiffs complained about.

"Rather, the Maynards seek to hold Snapchat liable for its own conduct, principally for the creation of the Speed Filter and its failure to warn users that the Speed Filter could encourage speeding and unsafe driving practices," the appeals court said. "Accordingly, we hold that CDA immunity does not apply because there was no third-party user content published."

Not Published

The plaintiffs -- and the appeals court -- made a point that the Snapchat photo was not uploaded or posted before the accident. Apparently, there wasn't enough time.

But it mattered legally because otherwise the CDA immunity might have applied. In any case, the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court.

Ultimately, the case against Snapchat might not survive under Georgia's negligence law. But it still serves as fair notice that internet service providers are responsible for information they create.

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