Snapchat is removing a controversial speed filter from its app. The filter was introduced in 2013, and lets users share how fast they’re moving. Some have claimed it encourages reckless driving. So it is controversial.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our Snapchat community, and we had previously disabled the filter at driving speeds,” a spokesperson for Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, told Engadget. “Today the sticker is barely used by Snapchatters, and in light of that, we are removing it altogether.”
A spokesperson recently told NPR that the filter is used in a few thousand snaps per day, which is a tiny fraction of the 5 billion snaps that are shared on the app daily.
However, the timing of this move is raising some concerns. The filter has actually been tied to some car crashes over the years, including some that were fatal. The parents of three teenagers who died in a 2017 high-speed Wisconsin crash filed a lawsuit against Snap. Just moments before the crash, one of the teens posted a snap that used the speed filter.
Again, it comes down to timing. Last month, an appeals court allowed the case to proceed, ruling that Snap wasn’t protected from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996. That provision usually protects internet companies from being held accountable for what their users post. Not in this case. Snap says the filter didn’t cause the crash and has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Snap made several tweaks to the filter before it was removed. It was changed to a sticker to make it less prominent and a “Don’t Snap and drive” message appeared when someone used it. Then Snap limited the top speed that could be captured and shared to 35MPH after that.
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