A products liability case against Grindr pursued by plaintiff Matthew Herrick has been argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit this week.
Grindr is accused of releasing a dangerous product into the stream of commerce, after Herrick’s ex-boyfriend harassed him by impersonating him on fake profiles. The profiles used Herrick’s face and address, and invited men around for “rough, unprotected sex, orgies, and drugs.”
The original case against Grindr was dismissed under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), legislation which protects online platforms from liability for user-generated content.
Tor Ekeland, representing Herrick, is arguing that the CDA may not apply to Grindr as it may not meet the legal criteria for classification as an “interactive computer service” (ICS).
“The ICS [designation] isn’t a given, it’s something you have to analyze. It’s arguable whether this falls into CDA policy,” Ekeland said.
He also noted that competitors to Grindr were able to resolve the issue quickly, and that some of Grindr’s inbuilt functionality was used in the harassment (such as categories from a drop-down menu). These issues pose challenges to a CDA dismissal, it is argued.
Further, Ekeland alleged that a security weakness in Grindr’s geolocation was used in the harassment.
Daniel Waxman, representing Grindr, has claimed the lawsuit is a “straightforward CDA case.” He says that Grindr is just like any other social media site in terms of its functionality.
He denies that geotracking in the way suggested would have been possible, as Herrick is not thought to have had the app installed on his phone at the time of the harassment. “I don’t think geolocation had anything to do with this,” he said.
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