ABC News’ Daniel Rapaport reports:
A website that provides users the opportunity to expose alleged cheaters has come under fire after a Sacramento, Calif., man who claims he didn’t cheat discovered his name on the site.
Jared Powers said he decided to explore what a casual Internet search of his name would produce. A link took him to Cheaterville.com — a website that allows anonymous users to post testimonials of alleged affairs and pictures of people with whom they claim to have been sexually involved only to later learn the person was in a committed relationships with someone else. A page featuring multiple pictures of Powers allegedly described him as, “Gay, Married, And Looking for Sex on Craig’s List.”
Powers told ABC News affiliate KXTV in Sacramento the listing left him feeling, “shocked, angry, betrayed.”
The post included a story of a homosexual encounter involving Powers, which Powers and his wife say is completely false, libelous, and defamatory.
“I’m so upset,” Powers’ wife, Winona, told KXTV. “We are very private people and we have an honorable marriage.” She says the images came from innocuous photos she posted to her Facebook account, which they say were they used by the defendant to invent the Cheaterville posting.
The couple said they immediately contacted Cheaterville, but Winona Powers says the company’s response only further angered her.
“They replied and said we could make a comment if it’s not true,” she told News10. “That was irritating. I was upset [about] the fact they just wanted to toy with us.”
The post was taken down, but Powers said Cheaterville told him they would have to pay $200 and go through an independent service that specializes in clearing peoples’ name on the Internet, which they did.
The couple is now pursuing a federal lawsuit against the post’s author, who they name “John Does 1-50″ until they can determine their true identities. The couple is claiming they suffered “severe emotional distress, loss of reputation, and economic damages.”
“We contacted Cheaterville 12 days ago requesting a release of the poster’s identity, which they haven’t replied to,” attorney Daniel Watts told ABCNews.com. “They’re required by law to turn over this information, and we have a request into the judge, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to identify the poster shortly.”
The Communications Decency Act protects websites from facing lawsuits over posts from their users if the website had no role in producing the post. However, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Roomates.com liable in 2008 for discriminatory posts on its site, ruling the site solicited discriminatory comments by requiring users to identify their gender, marital status and sexual orientation.
“By requiring subscribers to provide the information as a condition of accessing its service, and by providing a limited set of pre-populated answers, Roommate becomes much more than a passive transmitter of information provided by others; it becomes the developer, at least in part, of that information,” the majority wrote in its decision.
Watts said Cheaterville is liable because it’s run similarly, and claims only libelous, scandalous posts are displayed. To date, however, the Powers have no NOT brought suit against Cheaterville itself.
“I know for a fact that they’re only looking for libelous comments because I tried posting on the site myself,” Watts said. “I wrote in saying John Powers ate a cookie, and it didn’t get posted.”
Cheaterville told “GMA” that it provided the Powers with the IP address of the poster. However, the site claims the suit against the anonymous poster is nothing more than a publicity stunt.
“If these clowns think they’re the first guys to stumble upon the Roomates decision, then I openly mock them,” Cheaterville’s attorney, Marc Randazza, told ABCNews.com. “This isn’t even a remotely grey area. The circumstances simply aren’t the same as Roommates. To say that Cheaterville is liable is baseless and stupid.”
Powers and his wife said they remain determined to keep pushing their case.
“Until we find out who it is, I’m going to be paranoid,” Winona Powers said.