Rape Victim’s Claim Against Model Site Could Have Repercussions For Online Dating Sites

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A model’s court case against a site called Model Mayhem could have important repercussions for online dating services.

Following her tragic ordeal, an anonymous, aspiring model – referred to in the case as Jane Doe – has persuaded three judges in California to allow her case against Model Mayhem to proceed.

Model Mayhem is a site that connects models with photographers, which Doe used to try and kick start her career.

However when she travelled to meet the person she had been speaking to, she was met by two men, former policeman Lavont Flanders and Emerson Callum, a Jamaican porn star, who drugged and raped her, filming it for a porn series.

Having been arrested for similar crimes in the past but released because of insufficient evidence, Doe is now suing Model Mayhem’s creators, Internet Brands, for knowing her rapists were using the site, but failing to forewarn her and others of the risks.

And the courts have now accepted the case on the basis of a breach of failure to inform, saying that given the previous case against Flanders and Callum, the two men should not have been allowed back on the site and users should have been warned about them and any potential dangers.

Internet Brands originally succeeded in the asking for the case to be dropped due to Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, which states that online publishers are not responsible for criminal activity on, or as a result of, the use of their site.

However the case has now been allowed on appeal due to Doe’s case not being about the information published on Model Mayhem, but rather that the company knew about Flanders and Callum but did not inform users of the potential risks.

The court wrote: “Jane Doe does not claim to have been lured by any posting that Internet Brands failed to remove. Internet Brands is also not alleged to have learned of the predators’ activity from any monitoring of postings on the website.

“Instead, Jane Doe attempts to hold Internet Brands liable for failing to warn her about information it obtained from an outside source about how third parties targeted and lured victims through Model Mayhem.

“Internet Brands could have given a warning to Model Mayhem users, perhaps by posting a notice on the website or by informing users by email what it knew about the activities.”

And this could potentially be significant with regards to the online dating industry, because cases of this nature have previously rarely been allowed to proceed in the past.

It might mean that online apps and sites could become liable for knowing that their users are misusing the site or are a potential danger to others using their service.

Eric Goldman, a law professor specialising in tech issues told Vice, “There are regulatory efforts to require online dating services to do mandatory screening of members. If coupled with potential failure-to-warn liability, it would put the online dating services in an untenable position.

“They would be charged with knowledge about everything they learn in the screenings, yet in theory they would be obligated to disclose every bit of screening information about each member to ensure they satisfied an obligation to warn other members about any potential problem, no matter how remote.

“I don’t quite know how online dating services would manage that risk, to be honest with you.”

Read more about the story here.

Emma Woodley

Emma is a reporter at Global Dating Insights. Originally from Surrey, she has studied Communication and Media at Bournemouth University and The University of Central Florida. She enjoys socialising with friends, exploring new places and can often be found with her nose in a book.

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