Last week, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Lemmon v. Snap, Inc., No. 20-55295 (May 4 2021), that 47 U.S.C. § 230 (“Section 230”) did not bar a claim of negligent product design against Snap, Inc., reversing and remanding a lower court ruling.

Section 230 protects interactive computer service providers such as Snapchat from being “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” and historically courts have construed this language broadly to protect such providers from being liable for content posted by third parties on their sites.

The plaintiff-appellants in Lemmon were the parents of teenagers who died in a fatal car accident after one of the teenagers posted content on Snapchat using the app’s “Speed Filter,” which depicts the rate of speed at which a user is traveling.  The plaintiffs alleged that Snapchat knew or should have known that the Speed Filter would create an incentive for users to drive at dangerous speeds.

The lower court held that Section 230 protected Snapchat from liability arising from the conduct of the teenagers, but the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, finding that Section 230 was not implicated because the plaintiffs did not seek to hold Snapchat liable as a publisher or speaker; rather, they sought to hold Snapchat liable for negligent product design.  The Ninth Circuit found that the duty to produce a safe product was independent of Snapchat’s role in monitoring or publishing third-party content on its app.

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Photo of Yaron Dori Yaron Dori

Yaron Dori has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law, advising telecom, technology, life sciences, media and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the Communications and Media practice…

Yaron Dori has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law, advising telecom, technology, life sciences, media and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the Communications and Media practice group and currently serves as a member of the firm’s eight-person Management Committee.

Yaron’s practice focuses on strategic planning, policy development, transactions, investigations and enforcement, and regulatory compliance.

He represents clients before federal regulatory agencies—including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—and the U.S. Congress in connection with a range of policy issues under the Communications Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and similar statutes. He also represents clients on state regulatory and enforcement matters, including those that pertain to telecommunications and data privacy regulation. His unique experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection enables him to advise clients on key business issues in which these areas intersect.

With respect to telecommunications matters, Yaron advises clients on a broad range of business, policy and consumer-facing issues, including:

  • Broadband deployment and regulation;
  • IP-enabled applications, services and content;
  • Equipment and device authorization procedures;
  • The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA);
  • Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) requirements;
  • The Cable Privacy Act
  • Net Neutrality; and
  • Local competition, universal service, and intercarrier compensation.

Yaron also has extensive experience in structuring transactions and securing regulatory approvals at both the federal and state levels for mergers, asset acquisitions and similar transactions involving large and small FCC and state licensees.

With respect to privacy and consumer protection matters, Yaron advises clients on a range of business, strategic, policy and compliance issues, including those that pertain to:

  • The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA);
  • The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA);
  • Location-based services that use WiFi, beacons or similar technologies;
  • Online Behavioral Advertising;
  • Online advertising practices, including native advertising and endorsements and testimonials; and
  • The application of federal and state telemarketing, commercial fax, and other consumer protection laws, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), to voice, text, and video transmissions.

Yaron also has experience advising companies on FCC (Enforcement Bureau), FTC and state attorney general investigations into various consumer protection and communications matters, including those pertaining to social media influencers, digital disclosures, product discontinuance, and advertising claims.