Social Media Exploitation Lawsuit Continues Against Snapchat Amidst Concerns Over Child Safety

Waterbury, Connecticut – A lawsuit filed against social media giant Snapchat has been withdrawn, while the legal action continues against Meta Platforms Inc. The suit was brought forward by a couple alleging that their daughter was contacted by offenders through social media sites, resulting in exploitation. Although the lawsuit was withdrawn against Meta Platforms Inc., the couple’s lawyer, Michael Kennedy, stated that they are proceeding with the claims against Snapchat.

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, has previously emphasized their commitment to combating exploitation on their platform by working with safety experts and law enforcement. They have also asserted that they intentionally make it difficult for strangers to find and communicate with minors on their app. Despite this, the lawsuit accuses Snapchat of specifically targeting children and teenagers and allowing them to be exploited.

Lawyers representing Snapchat aim to have the lawsuit dismissed by invoking Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to online computer services regarding third-party content generated by users. The lawsuit alleges that Snap had knowledge of child abuse and bullying occurring on their platform but failed to address the issue.

The suit seeks unspecified damages from Snap Inc. as well as the two convicted rapists involved in the exploitation. In July 2019, the victim, who was then 12 years old, was contacted by a man on Snapchat who turned out to be a convicted sex offender named Reginald Sharp. Sharp convinced the girl, despite knowing her age, to send him explicit photographs and threatened to share them on social media if she didn’t agree to meet him. As a result, the girl was raped by Sharp.

Sharp pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including first-degree sexual assault, and received a 20-year prison sentence. The girl’s mother expressed her anguish in court, describing the incident as a parent’s worst nightmare. in October 2021, the girl’s mother reported another sexual assault, this time involving a former New Haven police officer named Edward “Eddie” Rodriguez. The victim had initially contacted Rodriguez on Snapchat and agreed to meet him. He sexually assaulted her and then drove her to school.

The lawsuit describes the victim as a once happy and outgoing child whose life changed dramatically after opening Facebook and Snapchat accounts at the age of 12. The suit highlights issues of bullying and exposure to predators on the platforms. The girl’s parents tried to restrict her access to these accounts, but she managed to open new ones without their knowledge. The suit also reveals that the girl attempted suicide in 2018, which led her family to report the exploitation to the police. However, they were informed that it was difficult to identify the abuser through Meta’s Instagram product.

The withdrawal of the lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc. does not affect the ongoing legal action against Snapchat. The case brings attention to the responsibility of social media platforms in protecting minors from exploitation and raises questions about the effectiveness of their safety measures. The plaintiffs seek unidentified damages from Snapchat and emphasize the need for accountability and safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future.