Attorney Who Sued Grindr Responds Extremely Poorly To The Supreme Court's Rejection Of Her Section 230 Lawsuit

from the upside-is-no-one-will-be-suing-Twitter-over-this-attorney's-veiled-threat dept

The Herrick v. Grindr case [um] ground to a halt on October 7th, as the Supreme Court refused to grant cert. The lawsuit -- and its attempt to undermine Section 230 immunity -- is dead, relegated to the pile of also-rans which have attempted to get a US court to rewrite this very important section of the Communications Decency Act.

Not that there was anything decent in the events leading up to the lawsuit. Matthew Herrick's ex-boyfriend used Herrick's information to create a fake Grindr profile and sent more than 1,200 men to Herrick's home and workplace over the next several months. Herrick sued Grindr, alleging that the company failed to prevent his ex from abusing the service to harass him.

The case was tossed on appeal, with the Second Circuit Court finding in favor of Grindr and its invocation of its Section 230 immunity. The party at fault here was Herrick's ex-boyfriend, but it was Grindr Herrick chose to take to court. The case was not argued well. The allegations contained suppositions that were pretty much impossible to reconcile, as Cathy Gellis pointed out in her post on the lawsuit. Herrick tried to dodge Section 230 immunity by claiming Grindr either handed out his geolocation info or some sort of bug left it exposed. This was the basis for his negligence claims. But none of that makes sense.

For it to be true Grindr would need to not only still be tracking him (even as an ex-user) but then, for some unknown reason, somehow unite the location data of the actual Herrick person with the fake Herrick profile. Herrick tried to argue that the first part was likely, citing for instance Google's location services continuing to track users after they'd thought it had stopped. But even if it were true that Grindr had continued to track him, it would be really random to associate that data with any other account he didn't control. From Grindr's point of view, his real account and the fake account would look like two completely separate users. Sure, Grindr could have a bug that mis-associated location data, but there's no reason for it to pick these two completely different accounts to merge the data from. It would be just as arbitrary as if it mixed up his data with any other Grindr account.

The most likely reason strange men kept showing up at Herrick's home and place of business was because his ex-boyfriend knew these locations and could send that info to Grindr users. That meant a third party was supplying the information that resulted in Herrick's harassment, not Grindr itself.

The denial of Supreme Court cert was tweeted by Section 230 legal scholar/law prof Eric Goldman. As readers of Techdirt are aware, there's seldom a Section 230 case Goldman (or his co-bloggers) don't cover, even if only briefly. Goldman's tweet of the Supreme Court denial was nothing but the reporting of the facts with the tiniest bit of commentary. Here's what Goldman said (links removed for clarity):

It's not the least bit surprising, but today SCOTUS denied cert in Herrick v Grindr, a significant #Sec230 defense-favorable ruling.

Here's how Herrick's lawyer responded to Goldman's innocuous tweet:

If you can't read/see it, the tweet reads:

Sure would be a shame if somebody misused a dating app to send men to this guy's home as happened 1200+ times to our client, Matthew.

Here's Scott Greenfield's take on this bizarre and inappropriate response by Herrick's attorney:

Goldberg’s reaction to Goldman’s twit appears to be a call to make him suffer the same harm that her client suffered, to implore some unduly passionate nutjob to e-personate Goldman so that he should become the target that Herrick was at the hands of his ex-boyfriend. As sick and twisted as Herrick’s ex might have been, this effort to target Goldman for attack, for harm, was even worse.

Eric Goldman’s attention to this case was as a lawyer, a law professor. While Herrick surely suffered terrible harm, it was at the hands of his ex-boyfriend. Goldberg, a lawyer, would be playing the ex-boyfriend to Goldman, the academic, not because he did anything to her or her client, but because his view of the law differed from hers.

Now, it could be Carrie Goldberg meant to do nothing more than point out Goldman's belief that platforms should not be held responsible for speech such as hers. If so, the point was made in the worst possible way. I doubt Goldberg wants Goldman to be harassed by strangers simply for disagreeing with her legal arguments, but a straight reading of her tweet doesn't really lend itself to charitable interpretations.

Also, it's odd for a self-proclaimed "victim rights'" attorney who goes around constantly insisting that her entire focus in life is protecting those who have been harmed... to then directly and explicitly wish harm on someone who merely commented (accurately) on a lawsuit. It becomes difficult to take her position seriously when she suggests the same sort of tactics she claims to fight against.

But this is the unfortunate side effect of arguments against Section 230 immunity. It's become increasingly popular to blame the immunity for the deeds and words of third-party users. This, of course, makes no sense. But the alternative is to recognize users are responsible for their own conduct and content and that unfortunate truth simply won't suffice when there's lawsuits to be filed, grandstands to be stood upon, and error-laden op-eds to be composed for the New York Times.

Greenfield points out the ridiculousness of this newly-popular Section 230 hatred, which has somehow managed to draw in acolytes from all political persuasions. (We'll try to forgive Greenfield's use of "safe harbor" [like the DMCA] rather than "immunity" [which is what it actually is].)

[F]or some of those on the Herrick’s side of the fence, there is no concern for Section 230 safe harbor, which is seen as nothing more than a protection that allows websites and apps to avoid the responsibility they would impose to protect their victims from harm. This is a view gathering support from both the right and left, both of which abhor the idea that they can’t dictate the content of the web to suit their demands and desires.

Ironically, they may share a hatred of this safe harbor, but their notions of who would be protected if it were gone are opposite. Neither seems to have the self-awareness to grasp this distinction, and both believe that they will own the future such that their vision of authoritarian control will prevail.

Lots of people want Section 230 immunity weakened or destroyed. Everyone who does thinks the internet will be better without it. But if it's gone, the services and platforms Section 230 opponents seem to believe will become better will actually become more restrictive or cease to exist. And crude reactions like Goldberg's are exactly the sort of thing that will disappear fastest if platforms can be sued for things their users have said.

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Filed Under: carrie goldberg, eric goldman, matthew herrick, section 230, supreme court
Companies: grindr

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 9:42am

    Say good-bye to any scraps of credibility

    A gorram lawyer, in response to a simple tweet pointing out that their case got nowhere, responds with a subtle-as-a-sledgehammer 'suggestion' that it sure would be nice if someone were to to do the person who pointed out their cases' death what happened to their client.

    Not only was it a garbage lawsuit going after the wrong person, but it would appear that it was filed by a garbage lawyer as well, someone who is at best childish and prone to lashing out at others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 9:48am

    I think that lawyer might want to familiarize herself with the term “stochastic terrorism”.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 9:56am

    "Lawyers don’t call for attacks on other lawyers because they disagree with their legal position. Not sane ones, anyway."

    And therein lies the crux.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Max (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 9:57am

    "This, of course, makes no sense." - oh shit, you're using the Chewbacca defense...!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:30am


    I would hope that Grindr would at least do some sort of verification process to ensure that John Doe is actually John Doe in the future. I'm not saying this is Grindr's fault, and that they don't have 230 protections from the actions of their users, but it would certainly stop copycat psycho's out there. Should be pretty easy to use a CC and Street address associated with it as that can be an address verification for purchases.
    This seems like an easy blackmail avenue for any person still trying to hide their sexual status from family/friends/work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:45am

      Re: IMHO...

      A) CC Address Verification is a joke.

      Get a green dot card at any convenience store.

      Register your address with the correct house number (street name does not matter) and zip code.

      Defeat any address verification.

      Address verification verifies nothing in the way you think it does in the era of green dot.

      B) A big point in the article is that the ex provided locations such as his home and work. Previous stories indicate the ex may have been following him to provide a location at times that were worst for Herrick. Address verification does nothing to verify the locations provided by users to other users in messages. Unless Grindr is reading what are likely some very personal messages, there is nothing Verifying a credit card address would do to stop this issue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:19pm

      Re: IMHO...

      Have you met the data brokers?
      Have you seen how "accurate" their information is?
      Validating people requires way more headaches than it is worth.

      This is a single case, please don't do that thing where 1 bad thing happens & we have to take our shoes off to get on the internet.

      There is quite a bit missing from the narrative in the complaint & he claimed that Grindr was using his GPS location to send men to him based on some report of some flaw in some code at some point.

      1200+ men showed up to have sex with him & the only police reports filed were about the guys who got pushy.

      1200+ men showed up, directed by his ex. Short of being psychotic, what motivates someone to engage in several thousand chats pretending to be someone else to get revenge? Perhaps there was some tit for tat happening? (There was a mention of catfishing between the 2 of them early in the relationship).

      1200+ men... he kept his account up on the evil evil site that was bombarding him with crazy hookups.

      1200+ men... someone was looking to get paid & teamed up with a lawyer who thinks 230 is evil & wants to overturn it.

      They told a court that a major corporation was secretly using the GPS satellite network to harass this 1 dude... I thought lying to the court was a bad thing.

      She put the idea out in the universe that this should happen to a lawyer who disagreed with her flawed lawsuit... Its a horrible thing to happen to my client but you disagree with me so it should happen to you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:34am

    Do as I say...

    That's like suing the magazine that a kidnapper used to cut out letters for a ransom note for the kidnapping.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:48am

      Re: Do as I say...

      Nah, it's more like suing the post office because they delivered the mail someone sent while pretending to be someone else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 11:36am

        Re: Re: Do as I say...

        Or suing the phone company because someone is making prank phone calls.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Oct 2019 @ 3:10am

          Re: Re: Re: Do as I say...

          Suing Snapchat for a filter you tried to activate by speeding.

          Suing Apple for not making it impossible for you to not text & drive.

          Suing Twitter b/c you skipped that class in law school that explains how data requests work & claim its all a terrorist plot.

          Suing Whirlpool b/c after you set your breakfast on fire you slammed your head into the vent hood.

          Suing Fortnite b/c you refuse to take away your kids device when they ignore your rules.

          Suing a dry cleaner for 50 billion dollars over lost pants.

          Y'all meant to be funny... but this is actually the world today.
          I never would have done those things if you had stopped me deep pockets inc, pay me.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:49am

    Old idea/trick

    There once was a trick to pull on someone you dont like.
    Send in a Mail Address change.
    there is very little verification of WHO gave the new address, and until the person AT the address notices, and calls up all the bill collectors to FIND his bills... Then realizes it was done at the post office..

    NOW the internet Does help with this, IF' the companies USE it to verify. Which would be even better, if the internet was FREE for ill paying.. A simple cheap, service for email and wondering the net.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:52am

      Re: Old idea/trick

      What I have a problem with...
      And this would of been important TO the complaint..
      is that the DATA in both accounts had to be similar. and Grindr, didnt CHECK to see who was whom..
      Unless his EX, didnt use the TRUE data, and only told address's in chat.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 11:35am

    Hmmm, her tweet is missing.

    Funny, maybe someone explained how off target her very lawyerly position was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 2:56pm

    A quick scan through Carrie Goldberg's Twitter feed (or at least the Media section of it) would seem to indicate that there is no ambiguity in her cited tweet. She seems like exactly the sort of person who would just lurv people to attack Eric Goldman.

    Here's a link to the decision: .pdf

    And to the complaint:

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 3:52pm

    I feel shame

    “Sure would be a shame if someone sent men to this guys home”

    But for some reason Reading that I thought of “chuckles in RL” sending pizza to goldbergs as like the most evil prank ever

    Don’t do that...animals do that...have standards...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 6:32pm

    John Herrick Smith's not going to like this, is he?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:28pm

    Pity she promised her client the sun, moon, & stars.
    He had a story that magically got more sympathetic towards him as long as you didn't look to closely.
    Her actual goal was to over turn 230, she claims her next stop is Congress to lobby them.

    Sending sex crazed men to him & Grindr did nothing to help!!!
    We wanted to hold them responsible for these things we imaged they could have been doing while ignoring what was really happening but the law stopped us. Get rid of this bad law!!!

    Of course the real story is something none of us know, the narrative we do have is cleaned up to present him as the victim of an evil corporation with deep pockets... ignoring that his ex is super crazy & perhaps someone kept poking the bear to get more "evidence" of Grindr being evil.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2019 @ 9:09pm

    Said ot

    Be a real shame if They sued your ####ing law firm for harassment since your wording and the timing of said outburst can be construed as provocative you cheap one dollar for pass back room tactics lawyer lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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