Snapchat Ends Speed Filter, Denies It Encouraged Reckless Driving

Illustration for article titled Snapchat's Speed Filter Removed As Company Denies It Contributed To Reckless Driving Deaths

Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP (Getty Images)

Snapchat’s speedometer filter, which displays the user’s current speed while recording video, has been pulled from the app after years of legal challenges that the filter encourages reckless driving, as well as a number of accidents that have been linked to its usage.

Back in May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned a decision that Snap, Inc. — the company that makes Snapchat — couldn’t be held liable for how the feature was used. That appeal was linked to an earlier case, according to the Washington Post, brought against the company by the parents of two individuals killed in a car crash in Wisconsin in 2017. In that instance, one of the passengers had sent videos displaying speeds as high as 123 mph before the collision.

The reversal compelled Snap to adjust the speed filter so it couldn’t register driving speeds. On Thursday, little more than a month later, NPR reported the company deleted the feature entirely — the same week it filed a motion to dismiss the suit against it brought by those parents.

This is but a recent change in tune for Snap, according to NPR. Over the last month it continually asked the company why it was so committed to the feature, first added to the software in 2013. During this time, a Snap spokesperson only told NPR “nothing is more important than the safety of our Snapchat community.” Then, Thursday’s development:

A month later, the same spokeswoman confirmed the speed filter would soon be gone.

The feature “is barely used by Snapchatters,” she said on Thursday. “And in light of that, we are removing it altogether.”

She said the company started removing the feature this week, but it may be a couple weeks before it disappears from the app for all of its 500 million monthly active users.

Snap had made several changes over the years ostensibly designed to discourage speeding while using the filter, though it also resisted disabling it entirely. In addition to the limitation that capped the max speed shown at 35 mph, at one point Snap changed the feature from displaying as a filter to a sticker. That made it slightly more difficult to access, though it was obviously still present.

In 2016, the company introduced a “don’t Snap and drive” warning in the form of small, translucent text in the bottom-right corner of the screen. That was about a year prior to the deadly crash mentioned earlier, and a few months before another, similar incident that claimed the lives of five Floridians, including two children aged nine and 10 years old.

Snap’s official stance that it is removing the feature not out of safety concerns but because it just isn’t popular anymore is both depressingly unsurprising and insulting to the families who have lost loved ones as a consequence of it. Many years have past since Snapchat’s mid-2010s dominance; it’s fallen far, now sat deep within the shadow of Instagram and TikTok. But the company just couldn’t bring itself to shut down this bad idea while it was hot.

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