Snapchat algorithm recommends teen connects with sex offenders

Occurred: 2019-2024

A 12-year-old girl was raped after Snapchat's recommendation algorithm connected her with two convicted sex offenders, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of the offenders, and a court case.

The teen girl, identified in court as 'C.O.' alleged that she was sexually assaulted in 2019 and 2021 by separate Snapchat users who were recommended to her by the company's 'Quick add' feature. 

Her lawyers argued that her use of social media had 'coincided with a severe and steady decline in C.O.'s mental and physical health', including bullying, and difficulty in school, resulting from various allegedly addictive features of Snap's social media platform, including the frequency of 'push' notifications and the nature of its recommendation algorithms.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis dismissed the case, ruling that Snap was protected by Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act, a law that protects interactive service providers from liability for activity stemming from recommendations by third parties. 

The ruling ran contrary to a decision issued in January 2024 in which a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge said Section 230 did not protect Snapchat from liability for allegedly connecting teens with drug dealers. 

Developer: Snap Inc
Country: USA
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Recommend people
Technology: Recommendation algorithm; Machine learning
Issue: Safety
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2024
Last updated: March 2024