A Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader who also works as a school teacher in northern Kentucky is suing a gossip Web site for libel over a posting that she says falsely claims she was exposed to two venereal diseases.
The woman, identified in court records as “Jane Doe,” said the posting on the Web site Thedirty.com is libelous and was posted online to hurt her reputation. The Web site doesn’t use her full name but mentions both of her jobs.
The posting, dated Dec. 7, 2009, and headlined “The Dirty Bengals Cheerleader,” identifies the woman by her first name and last initial, says she’s a teacher in northern Kentucky, claims her ex-boyfriend cheated on her with more than 50 women, contracted chlamydia and gonorrhea and likely gave it to her as well.
Underneath the post and photo, 90 people had left comments, some sexual in nature and others supportive of the woman.
The woman’s attorney, Eric Deters of Independence, said the rumors posted on the site aren’t true, but co-workers have asked about them. Deters said the posting has not cost the woman her job nor her cheerleading spot with the “Ben-Gals” but it has been a source of embarrassment.
“It’s just humiliating,” Deters told The Associated Press. “A hell of a freaking thing to say.”
The woman filed suit last week in U.S. District Court in Covington, seeking unspecified damages from the Web site.
Web site operator Hooman Karamian, using the online name “Nik Richie” in an e-mail to The Associated Press, said www.TheDirty.com is “all about good, clean fun, not hurting people.”
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site, solicits photos and information from its “Dirty Army,” then sometimes adds commentary to what users send in.
The Web site lists the disclaimer, “Postings may contain erroneous or inaccurate information. All images are credited to their original location. The owner of this site does not ensure the accuracy of any content presented on TheDirty.com.”
In the e-mail, Richie said he hasn’t seen the suit and wouldn’t comment on its specifics. But, Richie said, the federal Communications Decency Act protects Web site operators from liability for comments posted by a third party.
“While this law is somewhat controversial, it actually makes perfect sense. If one of Facebook’s 350 million members goes online and posts a statement in the middle of the night which turns out to be defamatory, should we really hold Facebook responsible for that?” Richie asks. “If we did, online social networking sites would not exist.”
It’s not the first time Thedirty.com has been sued over comments posted there.
A Texas woman sued the site in May, saying false information about her using drugs and having a venereal disease were posted for two weeks before being removed after her attorney contacted the site.
The site also has been sued by the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity and Tanco, a St. Louis, Mo.,-based tanning company for trademark infringement when the site posted information about each. Both suits were dropped when the information was removed.
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