A lawsuit against Grindr could end up shifting the legal landscape of website, app, and tech companies everywhere.
Almost two years go in February of 2017, we caught wind of Matthew Herrick’s struggle.
Herrick, a writer and actor living in New York City, was suing gay dating app Grindr after he started receiving hundreds of messages from men looking to have sex with him.
According to the New York Post, a former partner of Herrick's created fake profiles of him on the gay dating app. The multiple profiles included “semi-nude photos of Herrick … claiming that he wanted rough, unprotected sex, orgies, and drugs.”
The men in contact with this fake account would then appear at Herrick’s home and the restaurant where he worked in pursuit of sex.
Herrick also shared the story of how one stranger somehow found his way into Herrick’s apartment building and refused to leave. When Herrick’s roommate confronted the man and threatened to call the police, the stranger lunged at the roommate and wrestled his phone away from him.
TMZ also reported that Herrick was in a “constant state of hyper-vigilance” and was afraid that one stranger may attack or rape him.
At the time, Herrick had lodged 50 complaints to Grindr and 14 police reports with no change to his situation.
Currently, a law from 1996 called the Communications Decency Act protects websites and apps from being legally liable for content posted by their users. That said, Herrick and his legal team are still suing Grindr and not Herrick’s ex.
Herrick’s legal team, which includes Attorney Carrie Goldberg, are trying to use a “products liability” law that holds product manufacturer’s liable for any harm to customers because of poorly designed items.
According to NBC News, Herrick and his team say that Grindr’s app is “fundamentally unsafe.” He also says that Grindr’s lack of response to his situation was neglectful.
Currently, Herrick and Grindr are waiting for a federal appeals court to decide on the issue. This is after a federal district judge threw out the original lawsuit back in June of 2017.
At the time, Grindr said it can’t be blamed because Herrick got “mixed up with a tech savvy, judgment-proof individual.” They then suggested that Herrick sue his ex for his use of the app and not the app itself.
If the federal appeals court does rule in favor of Herrick and his legal team, this will set a precedent that will rock the Tech industry. Companies like YouTube, Facebook, and more could then become liable for not regulating the spread of false information on platforms.
This is a growing concern with internet programs in the past few years. With the rise of catfishing on dating websites, censorship on social media sites like Tumblr and Facebook (with its updated community standards), and the effects all of the above have on LGBTQ users, many are concerned on how to properly treat these issues without burdening users.
We’ll see how the federal appeals court decides to rule in the coming months, and how the Tech Industry will react to it.