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Woodhull Files Amicus Brief in Doe v. Grindr

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — June 18, 2024 — Washington, DC

Yesterday, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, represented by Woodhull’s General Counsel, Walters Law Group, joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation in submitting an amicus brief asking the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit to affirm the dismissal of a complaint based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in Doe v. Grindr.

What is Section 230? It is, essentially, the portion of the law that says that the paper is not responsible for the words written on it. In practice, Section 230 facilitates the robust marketplace of ideas on the Internet without incentivizing censorship of user-submitted content by online intermediaries.

What is Grindr? It’s a location-based social networking and online dating application often used by gay and bisexual men and transgender people. Users create a personal profile that includes their GPS position, and they can then browse other profiles sorted by distance.

Doe v. Grindr is a case involving a 15-year-old boy, referred to as John Doe, who was sexually assaulted by adult men he met through the Grindr dating app. To be clear, the platform requires users to be 18 or older, as required by law. Doe has admitted to lying about his age. Three of the men who assaulted him are in jail; one has fled.

The information collected for the Grindr profiles is submitted voluntarily and created by the users.

Ricci Levy, President of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, commented: “It is impossible to discuss this case without first recognizing the heartbreaking trauma that Doe suffered when he met with four men that he encountered while on Grindr. Trials were held, and three men are serving time in jail for the sexual assaults. But those assaults aren’t what this case is about. Among the implausible assertions in his suit, Doe claims that geolocation is a dangerous feature of Grindr. That strikes me the same as blaming Waze for careless driving that led to a car crash or the publisher of a recipe book because someone choked when eating one of the dishes in the book. It’s too easy to blame platforms and websites for the actions of the visitors to a site.”

From the brief“The district court’s decision to dismiss this case was a straightforward and sound application of Section 230, notwithstanding the troubling nature of the third-party conduct alleged. In seeking to reverse the district court’s decision here, Plaintiff would have this Court narrow Section 230’s protections and erode the significant benefits Congress sought in enacting the statute. This Court should decline the invitation, which would conflict with the mandate of Congress and would seriously harm online platforms, speech, and communities.”

Woodhull believes that Section 230, often referred to as the “First Amendment of the Internet”, is essential to preserving the ability to communicate freely online. The Ninth Circuit should take this opportunity to reaffirm the important policy considerations supporting the passage of Section 230 and affirm the dismissal of this case.

Woodhull is represented by Lawrence G. Walters or Walters Law Group
EFF is represented by Aaron Mackey and Sophia Cope
All amici are represented by: Ariana E. Bustos, Harrison B. Park, and Alexander J. Kasner of Cooley, LLP


About Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Founded in 2003, Woodhull Freedom Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit devoted to education and public advocacy in support of sexual freedom as a fundamental human right. Its work builds on the affirmations of individual rights contained in the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It carefully cultivates and works to engage allies from all social, economic, religious, and cultural justice communities interested in affirming sexual freedom.


Media Contact

Ricci Levy
President & CEO
[email protected]

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