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Hell hath no fury like a man scorned who has access to an online dating app. A New York man says his ex-boyfriend created a multitude of fake accounts on the dating app Grindr to send 1,100 men to his home over the past five months, all looking for sex as part of a "rape fantasy."
And now he's suing the app, claiming product liability, fraud, and deceptive business practices for Grindr's failure to address the issue.
The Dating Game
Matthew Herrick claims an ex (that he met on Grindr), has been creating fake accounts on the app since October of last year. Grindr, which caters particularly to gay and bisexual men, may be considered more of a hook-up app than a dating app, and men who saw the fake profiles responded in droves, as many as 16 per day. According to Herrick's lawsuit, respondents to the fake accounts, some of whom showed up at his place of work, were told not to be swayed if Herrick was initially resistant to their advances -- it was all "part of an agreed upon rape fantasy or role play."
"They were setting him up to be sexually assaulted," said Carrie Goldberg, one of Herrick's lawyers, told Wired. "It's just luck that it hasn't happened yet."
The Blame Game
So is Grindr responsible for the harassment Herrick suffered, or for the fake accounts that sent over a thousand sex-seeking men to his doorstep? Previous litigation would indicate not. The Communications Decency Act generally bars an internet or computer service provider from being liable for publishing harmful content generated by a third party user. In 2015, a district court in New Jersey ruled the CDA's "Good Samaritan" clause shielded Grindr from liability for any misrepresentations on user profiles after a man sued the app when he was caught meeting a 13-year-old for sex.
But Herrick's attorneys are trying to get around the CDA's immunity provisions. "Much of our work is about finding the cracks and holes in [Section] 230," Goldberg told CNN. "Companies don't deserve special protections when their product is dangerous and [Section] 230 doesn't give them protection in such cases."
While Grindr's terms of service prohibit impersonation accounts, it's unclear whether and how Grindr is policing fake accounts. Herrick's lawsuit cites over 100 reports flagging the fake profiles his ex used, to which Grindr only responded by sending a generic, "Thank you for your report" reply. Whether Grindr has a responsibility to protect users beyond the CDA will remain to be seen.