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Grindr defeats appeal over bullying on gay dating app

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. federal appeals court refused to hold Grindr liable to New York the man who said that his former friend used the gay dating app to post fake profiles, in a harassment campaign that caused more than 1,000 men to approach the victim for the sex.

The 3-0 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against Matthew Herrick came in a closely watched case over how far the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 federal law intended to restrict pornography, while the other speech-online, shield Internet-based companies of user abuse.

The court rejected Herrick, negligence and emotional distress claims for Grindr not to edit or to remove from his former friend, offensive content.

It said Grindr was shielded from liability for the exercise of “a publisher’s traditional editorial functions,” or providing “neutral assistance” in the form of tools and functionality that is available is equally bad actors, and the app of the intended users.”

Grindr is the property of Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. The Chinese gaming company is trying to sell Grindr after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States said the possession of a national security risk, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Herrick, who stopped with the use of Grindr in 2015, said the fake profiles caused 16 strangers a day to visit his house and the restaurant where he worked, in the expectation of sex, for a number of months, starting in October. 2016.

He is recalled, Jan. 2017, and a federal judge dismissed his case a year later, asks for the appeal.

Herrick’s attorney Tor Ekeland said in an interview that he was “disappointed, but not surprised” by Wednesday’s decision, because the courts are “highly deferential to big tech” in the interpretation of the CDA.

He gets the whole Manhattan-based appeals court to rehear the case.

“What happened with Matthew is not an isolated incident,” Ekeland said. “Apps are used to stalk, rape and murder. Under the authority of the reading of the CDA, the major tech companies do not have the responsibility to do something, even if they know that it is happening. The congress should amend these articles of association.”

Moez Kaba, an attorney for Grindr, said the decision clarifies that CDA protection to extend to apps, which is “important in the smartphone era, where so much activity is done on apps instead of via the traditional web pages.

“No one disputes that the claimant’s situation was unfortunate,” he said, “but the 2nd Circuit was clear in finding the right apps and their owners are not liable for this type of third-party behavior.”

The case is Herrick v Grindr LLC et al., The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 18-396.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Carl O’donnell, Liana Baker and Echo Wang; Editing by Susan Thomas

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