A gay dating app wants a judge to dismiss the claims of a New York man who says he's been accosted at home and work by over 1,000 sex-hungry men after an ex-boyfriend posted fake profiles soliciting men interested in exploring violent fantasies.
Grindr asked a Manhattan federal court judge Wednesday to toss out Matthew Herrick's claims, saying the Communications Decency Act protects it from liability and Herrick should sue his ex-lover instead. The act bars social-networking companies from being sued for speech used by their customers.
Grindr said it can't be blamed because Herrick, a 32-year-old restaurant worker pursuing a career in acting and modeling, got "mixed up with a tech savvy, judgment-proof individual."
The company said the lawsuit must be dismissed because Herrick's lawyers "cannot identify any cases in which a court found that a website owed a duty to protect a plaintiff from third-party content. This is unsurprising, given Congress' explicit instruction in the CDA that no such duty exists."
It also said other lawsuits alleging "far more shocking conduct than alleged here" were dismissed for failing to demonstrate extreme and outrageous conduct required for legal purposes.
Herrick sued Grindr earlier this year in Manhattan federal court, saying he couldn't stop a steady stream of unwelcome visitors despite roughly 100 complaints reporting the damage from dozens of fake profiles made in his name. He seeks unspecified damages.
He said his "incessant nightmare" has made photographers afraid to work with him professionally and forced him to drop a sponsorship with a South African touring company.
The harassment began last year after the ex-boyfriend falsely portrayed Herrick as being interested in bondage and unprotected sex, and seeking "serious kink and many fantasy scenes," according to the lawsuit. It said fake profiles falsely listed him as HIV positive and led to a stream of men, some on drugs, some aggressive and violent, and all under the impression he wants rough sex, has rape fantasies and wants men who respond to loiter even after being sent away.
The lawsuit said Grindr contains a manufacturing flaw that fails to incorporate widely used, proven and common software to flag and detect abusive accounts, allowing the app to select and direct an "incessant stream men demanding sex from plaintiff."
Attorney Carrie Goldberg said Thursday that the suit seeks to protect her client by getting Grindr to control its product. The lawsuit said Grindr was launched in 2009 and has become the largest and most popular app for gay and bisexual men, purportedly serving nearly 10 million users in 192 countries, including over 400,000 in New York City.
"The day has come for tech companies to wake up and smell their liability. They don't deserve immunity from lawsuits any more than the auto or tobacco industries do," Goldberg said.
In court papers, Herrick's lawyers said they did not sue his ex-boyfriend because lawsuits and judgments don't deter individuals who are "judgment-proof, hell-bent, erratic, retaliatory, impulsive, escalatory, unemployed, unemployable, tech-savvy, and untethered to any financial or family or professional responsibilities."