Grindr, the gay hook-up app headquartered in West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, has asked a federal court judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a New York man who says more than 1,000 men have pursued him for sometimes violent sex in response to a fake profile posted on Grindr by his former boyfriend.
Grindr filed the request in a Manhattan court on Wednesday. Its lawyer argued that the mobile sex app, which claims to be the most heavily trafficked gay sex app in the world, is protected under the Communications Decency Act. That law, passed in 1996 in an effort to protect children from online pornography, was amended later to bar claims against websites or other digital media whose content is provided by third parties. In effect, it declares that Grindr is simply the provider of a service and that it has no responsibility for the content posted by its members.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by Matthew Herrick, a restaurant worker, actor and model, who said the fake Grindr profile identified him as someone with violent fantasies and an interest in bondage and bareback sex. The profile also falsely described Herrick as being HIV positive. Herrick said men not only approached him on the app but also visited his home and the restaurant where he worked, with some believing that he wanted to be raped. Herrick said he made more than 100 complaints to Grindr about the fake profile.
Grindr’s attorney said Herrick should sue his former boyfriend rather than Grindr, citing the Communications Decency Act. In a court filing, however, Herrick’s lawyers said such a suit would have no effect on his former boyfriend, described as someone who is “judgment-proof, hell-bent, erratic, retaliatory, impulsive, escalatory, unemployed, unemployable, tech-savvy, and untethered to any financial or family or professional responsibilities.”
Grindr has come under criticism in the past for its unwillingness to moderate the content on its users’ profiles and its unresponsiveness to claims about fake profiles. A West Hollywood lawyer and several other men who identify themselves as HIV positive on their Grindr profiles complained about receiving offensive, shaming comments from other Grindr users. In at least one of those cases, the commenter was discovered by the lawyer to be using the identity of another Grindr user. Those men said Grindr did not respond to their complaints.
Last Fall WEHOville called out the West Hollywood-based company for facilitating the sale of methamphetamine to gay men around the world. That drug, also known as meth, crystal, Tina and T, among other terms, is considered one of the most addictive and dangerous of all drugs.
While sites such as Scruff, Growlr and MisterX didn’t allow emojis that signal drugs and barred text that called out drugs for sale, those emojis and words were used on Grindr. Grindr took action a month after the WEHOville story to curb the use of symbols and words indicating the users was selling drugs. Herrick’s lawsuit says the Grindr app has a flaw that fails to incorporate widely used software to detect abusive accounts, resulting in an “incessant stream (of) men demanding sex from plaintiff.”