Section 230 Once Again Applies to Claims Over Offline Sexual Abuse–Doe v. Grindr

John Doe, a 13 year old, created a Grindr profile and connected with Pritt. They met offline and engaged in sex. Doe sued Grindr for negligence and IIED. Grindr successfully defends on Section 230 grounds.

ICS Provider. Yes. Cite to Saponaro v. Grindr.

Third-Party Content. The plaintiffs claimed this case is about “a failure to implement basic safety measures to protect minors.” The court calls that positioning “disingenuous.” The court explains:

Pritt and John met and exchanged personal information that led to an in-person meeting and the sexual assault of John. If Defendants had not allowed John access to the app and published his communication with Pritt, the two would not have met and the sexual assault would not have occurred. [Cite to MH v. Omegle]

Publisher/Speaker Claims. “Plaintiffs claim is ‘inextricably linked’ to Defendants’
publication of Pritt’s messages to John….Defendants published the messages between the minor and Pritt, which constitute the underlying basis for Plaintiffs claims.” Cites to Herrick v. Grindr and In re Facebook. To get around the obvious Section 230 defense, Doe claimed that Grindr’s “weak” age verification system constituted a material contribution to the alleged unlawfulness. This fails because the lack of age verification doesn’t contribute to Pritt’s messages.

Similar Cases. In a footnote, the court notes several similar 230 dismissals: Doe v. Kik, MH v. Omegle, LH v. Marriott, Rodriguez v. OfferUp, Doe v. AOL. More generally, this case waded into long-standing Section 230 jurisprudence about people who message each other online to arrange an offline meeting where a tort/crime occurs. The flagship case on this point is Doe v. MySpace, a 5th Circuit opinion from 2008, which also involved the sexual abuse of a minor. The MySpace case even involved allegations that MySpace should have done more to verify Doe’s age. The 2015 Saropano v. Grindr decision involved a different plaintiff, but the same fact pattern (sexual abuse of a minor) and the same defendant. In other words, the plaintiffs were raising arguments that have been long-settled without doing much to distinguish the precedent, so the result can’t be very surprising to them.

Case Citation: Doe v. Grindr, LLC, 2023 WL 7053471 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 26, 2023)

Prior Blog Posts About Grindr