Snapchat Parks Speed Filter Following Lawsuits Alleging It Caused Fatal Car Crashes
For about the past eight years, Snapchat users had access to a filter that would overlay their speed of travel, measured in miles per hour. Not surprisingly, videos and photos shared to social media depicted some dangerously fast speeds recorded by the speed filter, prompting Snapchat to later cap the top speed, and now remove the overlay altogether.
Filters and overlays are an integral part of the Snapchat experience, and the company is constantly infusing new ones into the mix to keep the app fresh and exciting. One that had stuck around for a long time, however, was the speed filter. And for a long while, Snap resisted pressure to remove it despite warnings that it could lead to unsafe driving exhibitions, like this one...
While the above vehicle is shown motoring along at 91.7 miles per hour, other Snaps showed people pressing the pedal to the metal and exceeding 100 miles per hour. Like a Tweet in which the user celebrated hitting 127 miles per hours, with the caption, "Dare somebody to beat me and Kades mph snahpchat."
There have been multiple lawsuits filed against Snap alleging that the speed filter contributed to injuries and even fatal car wrecks. One of them involves Jason Davis, who at the time of his crash in 2017 was a 17-year-old. One of the two other passengers, Landen Brown (20 years old at the time), pulled out their smartphone and fired up Snapchat, then swiped to bring up the speed filter.
The filter showed the vehicle and its occupants reaching as high as 123 miles per hour. Sadly, the vehicle went off the road and smashed into tree, killing Davis, Brown, and Hunter Morby, another 17-year-old who was in the car with them.
A resulting lawsuit accused Snap of implementing a "negligent design" with the speed filter. A California judge dismissed the case, but more recently, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed the decision.
It's not clear if that and other lawsuits played a role in Snap removing the speed filter. From an official standpoint, it was not popular enough to maintain—a spokesperson told NPR that the filter was "barely used by Snapchatters, and in light of that, we are removing it altogether."
The removal process has already begun, though it is not being axed in one fell swoop. Instead, it could be a couple of weeks before the speed filter is purged from all 500 million monthly active Snapchat installations.
Even so, Snap still faces lawsuits over events that occurred prior to the feature's removal. In one of the lawsuits, it is alleged that some teens who used it thought they might get rewarded for exceeding 100 miles per hour "or at the very least, they want to find out if they will be rewarded and so they drive at excessive speeds to see what will happen."