Snapchat has begun to make policy changes following a class action lawsuit that was filed after an Oregon boy’s suicide.
According to FOX12, the 73-page lawsuit was filed earlier this week against Snapchat, YOLO, and LMK, on behalf of Kristin Bride, and the Tyler Clementi Foundation. The latter organization is an anti-cyberbullying group.
Kristin Bride’s 16-year-old son Carson, adds FOX12, committed suicide in June 2020. He had allegedly endured months of virtual bullying and abuse.
The lawsuit details how Carson Bride was targeted and victimized by his peers over Snapchat and other social media networks. In the months preceding his suicide, Carson received dozens of anonymous messages intended to “humiliate him, often involving sexually explicit and disturbing content.”
Most of the messages, says The Los Angeles Times, were sent through Snapchat’s popular and anonymous in-app feature, YOLO.
The Times observes that the messages must have come from people who knew Carson personally—they referenced specific instances in Carson’s life, including the time he had fainted in biology class at his Portland, Oregon-area school.
However, YOLO’s features made it impossible for Carson to identify the senders. Furthermore, if Carson had responded to any of the YOLO messages, the app would have made the original contents publicly available—meaning that Carson’s humiliation would have been visible to anyone on his contacts list.
After Carson’s family found his body on June 23, 2020, an investigation shows that he had been performed a search earlier in the day for “Reveal YOLO Username Online.”
The lawsuit now seeks to have YOLO and another anonymous messaging application, LMK, immediately banned from Snapchat.
“The high school students who anonymously cyberbullied Carson will live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives,” Kristin Bride said in a statement provided by Eisenberg & Baum, the law firm representing the plaintiffs. “However, it is the executives at Snapchat, Yolo, and LMK irresponsibly putting profits over the mental health of young people who ultimately need to be held accountable.”
“If this tragedy happened to us, it could happen to anyone,” she added. “By bringing this lawsuit, I hope to hold Snap Inc., YOLO and LMK accountable for the dangerous and harmful products… In this way, social media companies will think twice before they decide to continue putting profit over people.”
Although Snapchat has yet to issue any extensive comment on the pending litigation, a company spokesperson did say that the social media platform has decided to make temporary alterations to its operations.
“In light of the serious allegations raised by 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 integration while we investigate these claims,” a Snapchat spokesperson told FOX12 in an emailed statement.
The complaint, filed as a prospective class action, seeks to represent all United States residents who are aged between 13 and 17 and who have used Snapchat since at least 2018.