Grindr Gets a Pass in Lawsuit Involving Fake Profiles

Grindr got off on Thursday when a federal judge in New York City dismissed a 14-count lawsuit filed against the gay sex app company by a man who alleged that more than 1,000 men pursued him for sometimes violent sex in response to a fake profile posted on the app by his former boyfriend.

Matthew Herrick blamed Grinder, which is headquartered in West Hollywood, for malicious harassment after a former boyfriend posted profiles “which describe Herrick as being interested in fetishistic sex, bondage, role playing and rape fantasies and which encourage potential suitors to go to Herrick’s home or workplace for sex,” said U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in a summary of the case.

Matthew Herrick, the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Grindr.

Caproni dismissed Herrick’s suit, supporting Grindr’s argument that under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 it can’t be held liable for content created by others.

Section 230 has been controversial because several courts have interpreted it as providing immunity for internet service providers in regard to illegal acts committed by users of their systems.

For example, Section 230 was used to dismiss a lawsuit against filed by victims of sex-trafficking advertisements on the site. A bill called the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” was introduced in Congress last summer to amend Section 230.

Herrick argued that Grinder had no built-in safety features to protect against fake profiles. Other gay men have complained about such fake profiles, including several in West Hollywood who were harshly criticized by a fake Grindr user for being HIV position. Herrick said he complained to Grindr about the fake profiles, asking it 50 times to remove them, but it refused. Hundreds of men showed up at his home or at the restaurant where he worked to solicit him for sometimes violent and abusive sex, he said.

The judge said that because Grindr did not create the profiles it was not responsible for their content and the actions that provoked.

“it is not plausible that a reasonable person could conclude from the Terms of Service and community values page that Grindr has made any representation regarding its commitment to remove improper content,” she wrote in her decision.

Grindr, located in the Red Building of the Pacific Design Center, claims it has 10 million users in 192 countries. Kulun Group, a Chinese company that had invested in Grinder, recently purchased the remainder of the company while Joel Simkhai, the founder of Grindr, has stepped down from his role as CEO.

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