- A 16-year-old girl has filed a class action lawsuit against Snap, Apple and Google.
- From 2018 to last year, the girl was groomed by an active duty Marine who convinced her to send nude photos and videos.
- The girl’s lawyers argue that the companies put their wealth above the protection of minors.
A 16-year-old girl and her mother filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court this week against Snap, Apple and Google, claiming the platforms failed to protect teenage users from ‘gross harm’ and the spread of spyware. sexual abuse of children (CSAM).
In the lawsuit, attorneys for the girl, who is identified as LW, argue that Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, takes a reactive approach to protecting teens from abuse, requiring children to report their own abuse after they happened.
“The allegations alleged in this case are not against the adult perpetrator – they are against three large technology companies that enable him and others to commit these crimes,” the attorneys wrote in the lawsuit, which Insider consulted.
Its lawyers argued that the “tools and policies” of Snap, Apple and Google are designed to increase their wealth rather than protect minors who use their products and apps.
In LW’s case, a grown man, identified in the lawsuit as BP, began asking her for nude photos when she was 12. He saved his Snapchat photos and videos and shared them with others, said the lawsuit, filed Monday in California.
BP, who was an active duty Marine, admitted he used Snapchat because he knew his chats would disappear, the suit says. He was convicted in a military court last year of charges relating to child pornography and sexual abuse following a criminal investigation. according to the Washington Post which first reported on the case.
The lawsuit alleges that Snapchat is a “safe haven” for child sexual abuse, saying the app’s message-disappearing feature opens the door “to exploitation and predatory behavior.”
A Snapchat spokesperson told Insider it couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation, but called the situation “tragic.”
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our community. We use the latest technology and develop our own tools to help us find and remove content that exploits or abuses minors,” the Snapchat spokesperson said, adding that it reports all CSAMs detected to the National Center for missing and exploited children.
The abuse and grooming at the center of the trial occurred over more than two years, when the victim was between the ages of 12 and 16. The man also targeted “many other child” victims, according to the lawsuit.
BP first contacted LW via Instagram in September 2018 when she was 12 years old. The two then connected using Snapchat, where the man asked the girl to send nude photos.
When she refused, he sent the victim a naked photo of himself, according to the lawsuit. He “manipulated and forced” LW to continue sending nude photos until April 15, 2021.
If she refused to send a photo, the man would “ridicule and berate her”, according to her lawyers. He also attempted to have her meet at a hotel or Airbnb, which she declined, according to the suit. LW told her mother about the grooming and abuse in May last year, according to the lawsuit.
“Because of the physical and psychological damage, LW was evaluated in an outpatient teen suicide program, and even in an emergency room after a suicide attempt,” the attorneys said. “She sought care from a personal therapist, a psychiatrist, and was prescribed antidepressants. »
Google and Apple were sued for licensing an app called Chitter
Apple and Google were named in the lawsuit for licensing the Chitter app in their respective markets. BP used the app to distribute photos and videos of the victim, according to the lawsuit. The lawyers said the companies “enable, recommend and direct users to Chitter” and take advantage of in-app purchases.
Chitter allows two random users to connect and share messages, photos and videos anonymously. The app is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Lawyers argued that the app has gained a reputation for attracting users who want to stream CSAM.
Chitter did not respond to Insider’s request for comment sent on Friday.
Apple and Google pulled the app from their respective markets this week after being contacted for comment by The Washington Post.
An Apple spokesperson told Insider on Friday that it removed the app due to repeated violations of guidelines related to the “appropriate moderation of all user-generated content.” A Google spokesperson told Insider that it is “deeply committed to fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse” across all of its products.
Snapchat was also sued last month by the family of a 17-year-old boy who killed himself in 2015. His parents sued Snap and Meta, Facebook’s parent company, in a Wisconsin court on April 11, arguing that the companies were “aware of the addictive nature of their products and did not protect minors in the name of more clicks and additional revenue”.
US politicians have publicly criticized big tech companies for their policies and actions relating to the protection of young users, particularly after former Facebook employee Frances Haugen last year shared information with the media and Congress about the internal Facebook data that showed its products were harmful to teens.