Connecticut college student whose name and images from spring break in Miami were used on Snapchat Discover has sued the social media platform and a British tabloid for defamation and invasion of privacy.
The lawsuit filed Sept. 14 claims Olivia Freiler’s name and photo were used on Snapchat Discover under the headline “Sex, Drugs and Spring Break—College Students Descend on Miami to Party in Oceans of Booze and Haze of Pot Smoke.”
The Daily Mail, which has a partnership with Snapchat Discover, also published the story with the headline “We’ve Been Drinking Vodka and Smoking Joints. It’s Really Cool. A Haze of Weed, Booze, Twerking and Sex in the Open. Welcome to Spring Break—Miami Style.”
Freiler, who attends the University of New Haven, is not identified in any of the photos but is cited in the story. A Google search for Freiler’s name lists The Daily Mail’s story among the top results.
Snapchat Discover allows users to view news in the form of snapshot stories. After 24 hours, the stories disappear and are replaced with fresh content.
The arrangement with the media outlets gives Snapchat significant control, and in some cases complete control, over content published by its partners. Snapchat directs and lends its own in-house editorial team to generate content with its media partners and shares advertising revenue.
Freiler, a Wallingford resident, consented to having her picture taken by a man who said he was with The Daily Mail. Her attorney said Monday that the First Amendment does not protect the publication or Snapchat from disseminating false information.
“Of course, everyone has a First Amendment right, but to a point,” said Michael Zamat, owner and partner of Peterson Zamat in Fairfield. “The First Amendment does not give you a right to be misleading and to put an innocent individual in a false light. Everything has limits. The media has gone out of control with [publishing] trash instead of important issues.”
Zamat said he’s seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Zamat, who said the photographer approached Freiler on a public beach, doesn’t know why his client gave the man her name.
“She was with college friends and they probably thought it was cool,” he said.
Zamat said his client had no idea how her image and name were going to be used.
While the image might no longer be on Snapchat, the Google search of the Daily Mail story will have everlasting effects, Zamat said.
“This has affected her life,” Zamat said. “She feels [repercussions of Google search] will curtail work opportunities. It’s a common thing for employers to Google a name” before hiring someone.
Zamat said his client is “embarrassed” by the unwanted publicity and said there is future harm when she looks for jobs.
The lawsuit claims Freiler “never consented to, or signed a waiver, to be depicted as an alcoholic, drug addict or sexually promiscuous.”
The lawsuit lists counts for defamation, false light and invasion of privacy. Freiler is seeking compensatory damages, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest and punitive damages.
No one from Snapchat’s Los Angeles office was available for comment Monday.
Sean Walsh, director of communications and media relations for the Daily Mail, couldn’t be reached Monday. Walsh is based in New York City.
The case will be heard in front of U.S. District Senior Judge Warren Eginton of the District of Connecticut.
Contact Robert Storace at firstname.lastname@example.org.