Is Grindr responsible for not warning users that they could get harassed by others on the dating app?
No—at least according to one federal district court that said Grindr LLC is likely protected under federal law from claims that it failed to warn users about the risk of harassment.
Plaintiff Matthew Herrick alleged that another Grindr user created fake profiles of him—and that dozens of men responded to the profiles by assaulting or threatening him. Grindr, Herrick alleged, failed to warn users of the alleged dangers of the site, to screen users and to ban those who misuse it.
But the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—which shields online publishers from liability for content produced by others—likely bars Herrick’s claims. The court refused to extend a temporary order requiring Grindr to disable the fake profiles.
In particular, the court said Herrick’s “failure to warn” claim was premised on Grindr’s alleged refusal to ban users from the platform, which is a traditional publisher function covered under the statute.
The court’s reasoning appears to depart from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Doe v. Internet Brands, in which it found that Section 230 didn’t bar a claim that a modeling website failed to warn users about people using the site to carry out a rape scheme.
The Ninth Circuit said the duty to warn didn’t require the website to edit or remove user content, and that the website could have fulfilled the duty by simply posting its own notice—something that’s outside Section 230’s scope.
As for Grindr, The Herrick court didn’t address its ability to post a warning or whether such a posting would satisfy the app’s alleged duty to warn its users. A failure-to-warn ruling is still to come as the case proceeds.
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