Snapchat is removing its speedometer filter amid legal issues

Snap says it's nixing the feature because it's 'barely used.'

DAVID MCNEW via Getty Images

Snapchat is removing a controversial speed filter from its app. The filter, which Snapchat introduced in 2013, allows users to share how fast they're moving. Safety campaigners have claimed it encourages reckless driving.

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our Snapchat community, and we had previously disabled the filter at driving speeds," a spokesperson for Snapchat's parent company, Snap, told Engadget. "Today the sticker is barely used by Snapchatters, and in light of that, we are removing it altogether."

A spokesperson told NPR, which first reported on the move, that the filter is used in a few thousand snaps per day. That's a tiny fraction of the 5 billion or so snaps that are shared on the app daily.

The timing of the move is raising some eyebrows. The filter has been tied to several car crashes over the years, including some fatal accidents. The parents of three teenagers who died in a 2017 high-speed Wisconsin crash filed a lawsuit against Snap. In the moments before the crash, one of the boys posted a snap that used the speed filter, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted.

Last month, an appeals court allowed the case to proceed, ruling that Snap wasn't protected from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996. That provision typically protects internet companies from being held accountable for what their users post. Snap claims the filter didn't cause the crash, and this week it filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Before removing the speed filter, Snap made several tweaks. The filter was changed to a sticker to make it less prominent and a "Don't Snap and drive" appeared whenever someone used it. In the months before deciding to remove the sticker entirely, Snap limited the top speed that could be captured and shared to 35MPH.