Cases of Grindr Catfish and Deceit occur from time to time on Grindr —sometimes with tragic results. But Grindr’s identity theft that Herrick describes in his trial was a form of long-term abuse with equally dangerous consequences. In the worst-case scenario, according to the lawsuit, the impersonator has requested a “rape fantasy.” In one instance, Herrick says, a man refused to leave Herrick’s apartment building and got into a fight with Herrick’s roommate in the hallway until Herrick broke up the fight. Others yelled obscenities at Herrick at his workplace, harassed him outside and tried to have sex with him in the restaurant bathroom. A day earlier this month, six men looking for sex made their way to the restaurant where Herrick works in just four minutes. And Herrick says the person checking the fake profiles will often tell visitors that Herrick will “say no when he wants to say yes,” or that he sent them back only to hide them from his jealous roommate, and that they should come back.

“They were preparing him to be sexually assaulted,” said Herrick’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg. “It’s just lucky it hasn’t happened yet.”

Herrick’s civil complaint points to an ex-boyfriend as the source of the impersonation attacks. (WIRED chose not to identify him as he is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.) He reportedly started impersonating Herrick on Grindr even before their breakup earlier this year, but only started to use the falsified accounts to harass him only after their separation. The complaint indicates that the ex would “manipulate the geophysical parameters” of the app — a fairly straightforward hack using GPS spoofing apps for Android or jailbroken iPhones — to make it look like fake accounts are at home. Herrick or work.

The ex-boyfriend told WIRED in a phone call that he denies “all the allegations” in the complaint, but declined to comment further due to what he described as another matter in course involving both him and Herrick.

Goldberg said she personally verified all allegations in the complaint. “Any damage to my client’s credibility is thwarted by the voluminous evidence I have seen,” says Goldberg, who has has become known as a strong advocate for victims of vengeful pornography cases. Goldberg refused to share this evidence, however, preferring to reveal it at a later stage in the trial. Goldberg and Herrick also declined to comment further on the ex-boyfriend or his alleged involvement in the impersonation attacks, pointing out that Grindr is on trial for authorizing identity theft. , it doesn’t matter who led it. “A malicious user goes on a rampage using his product as a weapon,” Goldberg explains. “Grindr can control this, and they aren’t.”

Grindr did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment.

Herrick likens Grindr’s alleged lack of communication or direct action on the spoofed accounts to the behavior of a lesser-known gay dating app, Scruff. When profiles masquerading as Herrick started appearing on Scruff, he filed an abuse complaint with the company which led to the offending account being banned within 24 hours, according to Herrick’s complaint against Grindr. . Scruff also prevented the same device or the same IP address from creating new accounts. Herrick says Grindr, despite terms of service which explicitly forbid pretending to be other people, never responded even after dozens of requests from him and his family trying to help him. “It’s the ostrich’s strategy with its head in the sand,” Goldberg explains. “It’s cheaper for them not to staff a department that deals with complaints and abuse of the product.”

One of the reasons for Grindr’s lack of response, in fact, may be that he is not legally responsible for the ordeal Herrick went through, says Ashley Kissinger, media defense attorney at Levine. , Sullivan, Koch and Schulz LLP. Despite the early ruling Herrick has already won against Grindr, Kissinger points out Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that Internet services cannot be held legally responsible for content posted by their users. “If I were to defend the case, I would have a strong argument that Section 230 protects them from these claims,” ​​Kissinger said. Herrick’s complaint retorts that the case should not be viewed as illegal content on a service, but as product liability: “Grindr has affirmatively used itself as a weapon to destroy [Herrick’s] life ”, we read in the complaint. But Kissinger points to a 2003 case in which a woman sued over fake profiles that resulted in harassment. Matchmaker backed the Section 230 defense and won.

In the meantime, Herrick says he has reported the situation to police on several occasions. He refuses to speak about any criminal investigation against the ex whom he believes to be behind the falsified profiles. But on some occasions, sympathetic cops have patrolled his block or parked in front of his building. They also suggested that he move or find a new job, a notion that infuriates him.

“Why don’t you move? Why don’t you run Why don’t you hide? I find that so insulting. How is this a solution? Herrick said. “Why isn’t Grindr doing his job?” “

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