Image by Erik Eckel via FlickrA Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleader has sued Thedirty.com Web site for defamation in U.S. District Court in Kentucky, alleging that the site suggested she had contracted venereal disease from her randy former boy friend.
The suit (Jane Doe v. Dirty World Entertainment, Hooman Karamian d/b/a Nik Richie) is based on a Dec. 7, 2009, posting entitled "The Dirty Bengals Cheerleader," that identifies the plaintiff as "Sarah J." and notes she is a both a cheerleader and a school teacher in Northern Kentucky. The post claims the plaintiff's former beau cheated on her with 50 women and contracted chlamydia and gonorrhea, which was likely passed onto the plaintiff. More than 100 comments followed the posting, both supportive and vulgar.
The plaintiff said the venereal disease allegations are false and caused her extreme embarrassment, though she continues to work as both a cheerleader and teacher. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based defendant's Web site includes a disclaimer that acknowledges postings may contain erroneous information and states that the site does not vouch for the accuracy of its contents.
Falsely accusing an individual of having a "loathsome disease" is textbook libel per se. However, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 [47 U.S.C. sec.230(c)] holds: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider," which may shield the defendant from liability.