Reputation 2.0 = Stupidity 2.0 ?

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20061003/1a_cover03.art.htm

•Todd Hollis, a criminal defense lawyer in Pittsburgh, has filed a libel suit against a website called DontDateHimGirl.com, which includes message boards in which women gossip about men they supposedly dated. One posting on the site accused Hollis of having herpes. Another said he had infected a woman he once dated with a sexually transmitted disease. Yet another said he was gay. Hollis, 38, who says the accusations are false, is suing the site’s operator, Tasha Joseph, and the posters of the messages.

This was widely expected to happen when the site launched,  I would expect Tasha is going to lose a lot more then just her site.  What are people thinking when they create these sites?   People ONLY post about others on third party sites out of spite or anger.

18 Responses to “Reputation 2.0 = Stupidity 2.0 ?”

  1. /pd Says:

    what is the TOS for the site ?? I dont htink that the site operator (Tasha )can get sued..

    “. You are solely responsible for the content or information you publish, display or otherwise communicate in any manner (hereinafter, “post”) on the Service, or transmit to other Registered Users.”

  2. Markus Says:

    That is like saying youtube can’t get sued because their terms of service says you can’t upload copyright videos.

  3. Ali Says:

    Yea, so it can’t.

  4. /pd Says:

    Markus, extactly thats the point – you cant sure.

    I think you are coredumping on a site owner and creating an image that TAsha will lose her site rights !! Why ??

  5. Ali Says:

    I found these links:

    http://dontdatehimgirl.com/search/cheater.asp?ddh_id=7706
    http://dontdatehimgirl.com/search/cheater.asp?ddh_id=7715
    http://dontdatehimgirl.com/search/cheater.asp?ddh_id=7589
    http://dontdatehimgirl.com/search/cheater.asp?ddh_id=16038

    About 3/4 girls claimed that he gave them STDs. OK if only one or two said that it could be wrong, but with all these girls saying that it makes me suspicious…

    If this is taken to the court and those girls can give proof that they got STDs or that he is gay etc, not only could he lose the case but also get his reputation screwed up.

    At the same time making a site like that is obviously playing with fire.

  6. Markus Says:

    I was being sarcastic. Terms of service at best gives you an illusion of protection from lawsuits and often mean little in court.

  7. Sebbi Says:

    I wonder when that will happen to Ikarma (http://www.ikarma.com/) …

  8. /pd Says:

    Ack that markus.. its the same as
    “By issuing this website you acknowledge that ..

    [..]
    (c) we cannot assume any responsibility for the content of messages sent by other users of the Service, and you release us from any and all liability in connection with the contents of any communications you may receive from other users. We cannot guarantee, and assume no responsibility for verifying, the accuracy of the information provided by other users of the Service. ”

    and “at best gives you an illusion of protection from lawsuits and often mean little in court”

    correct ??

    the legal mumbo jumbo is the same, different verbiage..

  9. /pd Says:

    or better still the indemnity clause :)-

    “You hereby agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Plentyoffish and all officers, directors, owners, agents, information providers, affiliates, licensors and licensees (collectively, the “Indemnified Parties”) from and against any and all liability and costs, including, without limitation, reasonable attorneys’ fees, incurred by the Indemnified Parties in connection with any claim arising out of any breach by you of this Agreement or the foregoing representations, warranties and covenants. You shall cooperate as fully as reasonably required in the defense of any such claim. Plentyoffish reserves the right, at its own expense, to assume the exclusive defense and control of any matter subject to indemnification by you.

  10. Ali Says:

    Watch out PD, don’t piss of Markus in case he sues you😀

    I’m only joking😀

  11. Nick Says:

    I think it’s not fair. Why is the webmaster responsible for what YOU say using his/her web site?

  12. Dre Says:

    I am sure she got good legal advice before launching the site. If she thought she would be at risk of actually being blamed for what others post I am sure she wouldn’t have launched the site.

  13. Dave Evans Says:

    It’s all about the adjudication process. Any rating or reputation service needs to put in place a way to deal with supposedly false claims. See background check companies for more on this. It’s a big deal that nobody is really addressing while they tout the effectiveness of their rating services.

  14. Dave Naffziger Says:

    Many people don’t realize that just getting sued is an incredibly expensive proposition. Whether Tasha wins or not is somewhat irrelevant unless she has fairly large assets. She will have to respond to a lawsuit by an emotional party that doesn’t have to pay legal bills because he’s a lawyer.

  15. Dave Starr Says:

    It will be an interesting thing to follow. Many of the “jailhouse lawyer” comments here have ignored Markus’s original point and the excellent point raised by Dave Evans. If I have a site, say it’s about lawnmowers, and someone makes libelous statements about user Bob Smith, I _may_ not have a legal issue because it is clear my site is not about the reputation of Bob Smith.

    But if my site holds itself out as a service reporting on the evils of the “Bob Smiths” of the world then I have a much stickier situation. Also, the idea that truth is a valid defense came up … as in if the site owner can find x number of women who did get a disease from this guy his case may be thrown out.
    In some libel situations the truth indeed may be a defense … but under the current US laws on medical privacy … HIPPA … just accusing the man in public may be criminal and releasing any proof the victims may have might run afoul of criminality too. There’s a huge, huge difference between calling a guy an a-hole and revealing private health data about a guy. Tricky, tricky ground.

  16. JayW Says:

    wtf? HIPPA? Was one of the women his doctor (or worked for his health care providers)?

    These guys http://www.apartmentratings.com/ seem to have done a good job of dealing with firms that are pissed because of bad reviews – see: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/landlords

    It should be intersting to see how it unfolds but as one of the other posters remarked it’s going to be a long and really expensive battle. . .

  17. mrrbobs_free_dating Says:

    “Dre Says:
    October 5th, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    I am sure she got good legal advice”

    Are you kidding?

    Most webmasters never even had a consultation with an attorney. If she indeed set her self up as an INC or some other entity such as an LLC then she will be pretty well protected but if she did not then she is a know-nothing (legally speaking) webmaster like most. I been there and done that and thankfully have not been sued. Probably an angry bitch who came up with the idea for the website out of spite. Just as Markus said, most people who would post do it out of anger or spite and so it goes for a person who would setup a website like that.

    Speaking of spite and anger I have experienced this more then once myself when I go to the local taco bell and those rats give me a burrito with about 1/16 ounce of filling. All tortilla and about nothing else. I had it up to my chin with these kinds of places so I registered fast*food*ratings dot com (no site up yet) and I am going after them. I will be setting up a separate LLC or INC just to run that site. After that every bad restaurant out there will be fair game for an angry review by people who get bad food, no burrito filling, (darn you taco bell) constantly see filthy restrooms etc. The list of complaints is endless. I’m sure most of you could think of a few choice comments about a few restaurants.

    Then when you visit a new town and need to eat out you can just login first and find out who runs a good restaurant and who should not even be in the business. It will all be done very professional but it will not take long for an individual restaurant who makes garbage or rips people off to get a consistently low rating. Then they can ether clean up their act or go out of business. Wonder how many of these bums will try to sue me?

  18. BurritoMaker Says:

    JayW: Depending on the state where the suit is filed, it can be dismissed very quickly. the first thing the defendants attorney will do is file a motion to dismiss based on the fact meets the statutory definition of a “interactive content provider” and can therefore not be subject to liability for third-party content. This will probably cost DontDateHimGirl $20-$30k. If the owner bought media insurance (which she probably did given her background in newspapers), insurance will cover this.

    mrrbobs_free_dating: Fast food ratings already exists… Go to http://local.yahoo.com and search for “taco bell” and click “Write a review.” Go nuts.

    Or go to Citysearch, Yelp, InsiderPages, and a bunch of other sites to review Taco Bell… and no they won’t censor or pre-screen your review. These sites would not have raised millions in VC money if their legal foundation was in question.

    The CDA is not a debatable law: the Supreme Court already ruled that the CDA protects websites from libel suits based on what users post on them in Zeran v. AOL.

    The people who are dumb are the ones who are bringing libel suits against websites.

    Just look at TeacherReviews.com, a site launched back in 1998/1999– they got sued by a SF City College professor and got the ACLU to defend them. They got the professor to drop the suit (because the CDA bars the suit) AND pay them $10,000 for legal expenses under California anti-SLAPP.
    http://www.aclu.org/studentsrights/offcampus/12875prs20001003.html

    It turns out if you file a libel suit that has no chance of winning (like suing a website for libel over what some user posted), the defendant a) can get the suit dismissed immediately, and b) can turn around and sue YOU for all their legal expenses. Word to the wise: don’t be stupid and sue a website. You may be the one paying…

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