Grindr is being sued by a teenager who was raped by four men she met on the app
Grindr A Canadian teenager who was raped by four men he met on the platform as a minor sued in California for more than $66 million in damages.
According to the grayling Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the now 19-year-old Nova Scotian – referred to only by the pseudonym “John Doe” in the lawsuit – was raped by four men over four days in April 2019 after he contacted them on a gay hookup app when he was 15 years old.
The lawsuit accuses Grindr of actively trying to “recruit children to use the product” through marketing and then connecting them with adults for sexual purposes. It also says that the company is happy to ignore the presence of underage users in the app.
“If Grindr says it’s a safe place for the LGBTQ community, it really should be,” said Carrie Goldberg, a New York attorney. specializes in sexual offenses and the sharing of sexual material without consent who represents the plaintiff, told BuzzFeed News. “That’s the crux of the matter.”
Grindr spokesman Patrick Lenihan dismissed the lawsuit as without merit and drew parallels with current right-wing rhetoric that accuses LGBTQ people of “grooming” children.
“These baseless and patently homophobic allegations against our company are rooted in historical bigotry against the LGBTQ community, and we will not stand for it,” Lenihan said in a statement.
In response, Goldberg said he was “dumbfounded” and “shocked” by Grindr accusing his company and its customers of using anti-gay rhetoric. “This lawsuit … was about protecting the rights of gay people to date safely,” he said. “Any other suggestion is just wrong … and it doesn’t reach the belt.”
According to the terms of service, Grindr users must be at least 18 years old to create an account. New users must verify their age, but no ID is required. Last year, Grindr collaborated with an artificial intelligence company to moderate content on its platform to try to detect underage users.
“Grindr is an industry leader in protecting LGBTQ people online and around the world,” said Lenihan, “and we will continue to support best practices and industry alignment to protect the safety and privacy of our users.”
One 2018 Northwestern University studywhich Goldberg cites in the lawsuit, found that more than half of sexually active gay and bisexual adolescent boys under the age of 18 used Grindr to find a partner.
In 2017, Goldberg represented another client, Matthew Herrick, in an unsuccessful lawsuit against Grindr. Herrick, a New York resident in her 30s, sued the platform after she said her ex-boyfriend pretended to be her on the app for six months and she sent more than 1,000 men to her home in hopes of sex and drugs.
Herrick’s lawsuit was dismissed by a federal district court in 2018. Subsequently, the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit decided against his appeal, which found that Grindr is protected by Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code, which generally shields technology companies from liability for third-party content generated by users of their platforms. The Supreme Court too denied review of Herrick’s appeal.
Goldberg told BuzzFeed News that he thinks Doe’s case is different from Herrick’s because it’s a sex trafficking exception in section 230. He also suspected that previous California case law would be more supportive in this case.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, describes how Doe, then an out-of-gay high school student, downloaded Grindr to make friends with other underage boys. She then openly photographed and exchanged messages with the four adult men who, according to the complaint, raped her in their homes or in parks.
After the teenager testified at their criminal trial, three of the four men were convicted of sexually assaulting a child and sentenced to between 24 and 54 months in prison, according to the lawsuit. The fourth was not found.
Accusing the company of knowing that its product facilitates the rape of children, the lawsuit equates Grindr with other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church, which have “turned a blind eye to the systematic exploitation of children for sexual abuse.”
It accuses Grindr of marketing Grindr to children because it maintains accounts on Instagram and TikTok, social media platforms where many brands, from other dating apps to alcohol companies, also have accounts.
The lawsuit also highlights two TikTok videos that have since been removed by Grindr, in which the creators of the adult content pretended to be students outside of high school or PE classes. The lawsuit alleges that the latter “specifically takes place in an elementary, middle, or high school classroom.”
“Through this video on TikTok, Grindr directly advertises to children and targets them with messages that indicate that Grindr should be used at school and that children should use it,” the lawsuit states.
Grindr’s TikTok accountwhich has more than 138,000 followers, is regularly taken over by adult content creators who post videos on behalf of the company.
The lawsuit alleges that Grindr could have prevented Doe’s abuse by using a third-party age verification service, requiring a government ID to use the app, or blocking its use in schools, among other things.
Lenihan, a spokesperson for Grindr, said Apple, Google and the entire tech industry must work together to develop better technology that respects users’ data.
Doe is suing Grindr for faulty design, faulty manufacturing, faulty warning, negligence and negligent misrepresentation. He is also filing a civil suit under a section of the United States Code which deals with human trafficking.