Ancora sul (pericoloso) “speed filter” di Snap e il safe harbour ex § 230 CDA

Altra lite sulle conseguenze mortali dell’uso del software <speed filter> di Snap Inc., che permette di eseguire e condividere filmati dal veicolo con riproduzione della velocità oraria raggiunta.

I genitori di ragazzi morti in incidente automobilistico, causato anche dall’incoraggiamento di Snap a correre forte, citano Snap INc. (poi: S.) per progettazione difettosa del prodotto (responsabilità da prodotto difettoso)

Decide la corte di appello californiana del 9° cicuito, 4 maggio 2021, Lemon ed altri c. Snap Inc. No. 20-55295,  D.C. No. 2:19-cv-04504-MWF-KS.

In primo grado era stata accolta l’eccezione di safe harbour ex § 230 CDA; in  appello viene respinta, per cui viene riformata la decisione di primo grado.

In breve, per la Corte la domanda dei genitori dei ragazzi era basata su design negligente del prodotto e dunque nulla aveva a che fare con il ruolo di publisher/speaker chiesto dal § 230 CDA.

Va anche tenuto conto che <<many of Snapchat’s users suspect, if not actually “believe,” that Snapchat will reward them for “recording a 100-MPH or faster [s]nap” using the Speed Filter. According to plaintiffs, “[t]his is a game for Snap and many of its users” with the goal being to reach 100 MPH, take a photo or video with the Speed Filter, “and then share the 100-MPH-Snap on Snapchat.”>>, p. 7.

Dunque <<Snapchat allegedly knew or should have known, before May 28, 2017, that its users believed that such a reward system existed and that the Speed Filter was therefore incentivizing young drivers to drive at dangerous speeds. Indeed, the Parents allege that there had been: a series of news articles about this phenomenon; an online petition that “called on Snapchat to address its role in encouraging dangerous speeding”; at least three accidents linked to Snapchat users’ pursuit of high-speed snaps; and at least one other lawsuit against Snap based on these practices. While Snapchat warned its users against using the Speed Filter while driving, these warnings allegedly proved ineffective. And, despite all this, “Snap did not remove or restrict access to Snapchat while traveling at dangerous speeds or otherwise properly address the danger it created.”>>, ivi.

<<Here, the Parents seek to hold Snap liable for its allegedly “unreasonable and negligent” design decisions regarding Snapchat. They allege that Snap created: (1) Snapchat; (2) Snapchat’s Speed Filter; and (3) an incentive system within Snapchat that encouraged its users to pursue certain unknown achievements and rewards. The Speed Filter and the incentive system then supposedly worked in tandem to entice young Snapchat users to drive at speeds exceeding 100 MPH.
The Parents thus allege a cause of action for negligent design—a common products liability tort>>, p. 11.

Non si tratta quindi di causa petendi basata sull’attività di publisher/speaker: <<The duty underlying such a claim differs markedly from the duties of publishers as defined in the CDA. Manufacturers have a specific duty to refrain from designing a product that poses an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to consumers. See Dan B. Dobbs et al., Dobbs’ Law of Torts § 478 (2d ed., June 2020 Update). Meanwhile, entities acting solely as publishers—i.e., those that “review[] material submitted for publication, perhaps edit[] it for style or technical fluency, and then decide[] whether to publish it,” Barnes, 570 F.3d at 1102—generally have no similar duty. See Dobbs’ Law of Torts § 478.
It is thus apparent that the Parents’ amended complaint does not seek to hold Snap liable for its conduct as a publisher or speaker. Their negligent design lawsuit treats Snap as a products manufacturer, accusing it of negligently designing a product (Snapchat) with a defect (the interplay between Snapchat’s reward system and the Speed Filter). Thus, the duty that Snap allegedly violated “springs from” its distinct capacity as a product designer. Barnes, 570 F.3d at 1107. This is further evidenced by the fact that Snap could have satisfied its “alleged obligation”—to take reasonable measures to design a product more useful than it was foreseeably dangerous—without altering the content that Snapchat’s users generate. Internet Brands, 824 F.3d at 851. Snap’s alleged duty in this case thus “has nothing to do with” its editing, monitoring, or removing of the content that its users generate through Snapchat. Id. at 852>>, 12-13.

Tuttavia un hosting di materiali di terzi c’era: quello dei video (snaps) dei tre sfortunati ragazzi (i quali sono terzi rispetto a S.).

Ma ciò non toglie che la causa petendi era di prodotto difettoso: <<Notably, the Parents do not fault Snap in the least for publishing Landen’s snap. Indeed, their amended complaint fully disclaims such a reading of their claim: “The danger is not the Snap [message using the Speed Filter] itself. Obviously, no one is harmed by the post. Rather, the danger is the speeding.” AC ¶ 14. While we need not accept conclusory allegations contained in a complaint, we must nonetheless read the complaint in the light most favorable to the Parents. See Dyroff, 934 F.3d at 1096. And this statement reinforces our own reading of the Parents’ negligent design claim as standing independently of the content that Snapchat’s users create with the Speed Filter.
To sum up, even if Snap is acting as a publisher in releasing Snapchat and its various features to the public, the Parents’ claim still rests on nothing more than Snap’s “own acts.” Roommates, 521 F.3d 1165. The Parents’ claim thus is not predicated on “information provided by another information content provider.” Barnes, 570 F.3d at 1101>>, p. 15.

La decisione pare corretta.

Notizia e link alla sentenza dal blog di Eric Goldman (critico invece sulla sentenza)