Snap suspends two anonymous messaging apps after cyberbullying lawsuit

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Snap suspends two of Snapchat’s anonymous messaging integrations following a lawsuit to hold them responsible for the death of a teenager, the Los Angeles Times reports. The lawsuit was submitted on Monday by Kristin Bride, the mother of a teen who died of suicide in June after being bullied into the two apps.

“In light of the serious allegations of the lawsuit, and out of an abundance of caution for the safety of the Snapchat community, we are suspending both Yolo and LMK’s Snap Kit integrations while investigating these claims,” ​​said a Snap spokesperson. in a statement. Representatives of the two apps, Yolo and LMK, did not immediately respond The edge‘s request for comment.

Yolo and LMK were developed by third-party developers and integrate with Snapchat through the Snap Kit platform. LMK allows users to create polls and Q & As for their Snapchat friends to answer, while Yolo focuses on Q & As. Both services allow users to send messages anonymously, which facilitates cyberbullying to such an extent that the apps should be considered dangerous, the lawsuit states.

Last year, when Carson Bride was found dead by his family, his phone history revealed that he had searched for “Reveal YOLO Username Online” that same day. The lawsuit alleges that over a period of several months, he received anonymous bullying reports that made sexual comments and taunted him about incidents at school.

At the moment of writing Yolo, which the suit says is owned by Yolo Technologies, no longer appears to be available on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. LMKdeveloped by LightSpace is still available for download On both mobile app stores, but trying to share content to Snapchat throws an error.

Both apps make different bullying protection promises on their platforms, the LA Times notes. Yolo reportedly warns users during installation that it “has no tolerance for objectionable content or users,” while a FAQ of LMK says it “goes to extremes to protect our community” with a combination of automated and human moderation. The plaintiffs argue that the two apps violate consumer protection laws by not enforcing their own terms of service.

Concerns that Yolo could be used for bullying have been around for years. Already in 2019 TechCrunch wrote that the app’s model is prone to ‘teenage abuse’. Mashable noted that a previous anonymous messaging app was Sarahah after all started app stores about his bullying problem.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 generally protects social media companies from the actions of their users. But section 230 typically applies to messaging rather than app functionality, and US courts have recently shown a willingness to hold broader platforms liable when a specific integration proves dangerous. Last week, an appeals court ruled that Snap could be charged with a speed filter, after allegations it encouraged reckless driving. The claim was that the product’s design encouraged dangerous behavior, with users assuming that reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour would yield a performance.

The Bride family is seeking damages on behalf of all 92 million Snapchat users and wants the two apps banned from the market until they can prove they have effective safeguards. The lawsuit specifically says it does not want to punish the users who sent the bullying messages, only the companies that facilitated them; namely Snap and the developers of Yolo and LMK:

The claims in this promotion do not concern communications from external users; Therefore, this action does not target the communication of the users themselves, nor does it seek to punish the senders of the harassment and intimidating messages.

Rather, the claims here are about how the anonymous messaging apps designed and distributed products and services that are inherently dangerous, unsafe, and useless. Anonymous messaging apps have been known to cause serious and fatal harm to teens for decades, so the damage done by the defendants’ apps was foreseeable.

Bullying problems have been widespread on social networks such as Instagram for years. In response, Facebook’s social network has introduced a variety of features designed to limit abuse, including warning messages when users post potentially offensive captions and filters to remove comments about bullying. As of February this year, Instagram said the number of bullying and harassment removals has nearly doubled since last year.