Once upon a time, Snapchat was a simple app. You took a picture, you sent it to a friend, and it disappeared shortly after.
Nowadays, it’s a messaging app, a video sharing app and a news app. A face-swapping, dog-masking revolution in online communications.
But is it indecent? And are children being put at risk? This has been recent questions that have come up recently.
That’s what’s at the centre of an intriguing lawsuit made public on Thursday.
It focuses on the Discover function of Snapchat, a section in which publishers are falling over themselves to be seen.
Stories such as “10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm” from Cosmopolitan magazine.
That’s just one example given in the lawsuit. There are others that are too rude to be published here which I guess speaks to the complaint. If it’s unsuitable for teenagers and should minors be able to see it on Snapchat?
The class-action complaint argues Snapchat is routinely pushing content like this without warning or consideration over the age of the user.
“Millions of parents in the United States today are unaware that Snapchat is curating and publishing this profoundly sexual and offensive content to their children,” reads the lawsuit, filed by “John Doe”, a 14-year-old from Los Angeles.
State law means he has been made anonymous, although we know he apparently has “good grades”.
In US law, a class-action lawsuit allows one party – in this case “John Doe” – to represent a potentially much larger group of people who could be compensated if Snapchat was to lose or settle the case.
Snapchat on Thursday came straight out with a brief statement.
“We are sorry if people were offended,” a spokesman wrote in an email.
“Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something that we support.”
When it comes to controversy for social networks, this is very much familiar territory, the old publisher/platform debate that all sites must face at some point.