A Chicago man has filed a lawsuit against Facebook and dozens of women, claiming that he was defamed by a social media group that accused him of being a poor romantic partner.
According to FOX News, the unusual lawsuit could have far-reaching consequences: it is the first claim filed under Illinois’ recently-passed “anti-doxxing” statute, which took effect at the beginning of this year. It holds that any person who intentionally publishes another individual’s personally-identifiable information online, and without that individual’s consent, is liable for certain damages.
Daniel Nikolic, a Tret Law Group attorney representing plaintiff Nikko D’Ambrosio, stressed that social media rumors and gossip can have a profound and outsized impact.
“I’m equating this to a digital scarlet letter,” Nikolic told FOX-32 Chicago. “They place this letter on him, and he can’t comment, can’t come back and stand up for himself, and can’t record his side of the story.”
The lawsuit names plaintiffs include Facebook and its parent company, Meta, as well as 30 women who D’Ambrosio says posted false and defamatory comments about him in an invite-only Facebook group called “Are We Dating the Same Guy.”
The Facebook group, notes FOX-32 Chicago, is a “forum where women swap stories about the men they encounter in the dating world.”
“I went out with him a few times over a year ago,” one woman wrote of D’Ambrosio. “He told me what I wanted to hear until I split with him and then he ghosted. I’d steer clear.”
During a similar exchange, another woman appeared to repeat third-party accounts of D’Ambrosio’s purported romantic misconduct.
“He’s been posted here before,” the woman wrote. “The poster said he sent her a slew of texts calling her names because she didn’t want to spend the night with him.”
In his lawsuit, D’Ambrosio says that the women should be liable for any damage done to his reputation.
“The defendants broadcast their outrageous, cruel, and malicious lies about the plaintiff with knowledge that the statements were false or with reckless disregard as [to] whether or not they were true,” the lawsuit alleges, adding that other men have suffered similar forms of harassment.
“Thousands of men have been potentially defamed by members of the group via these online publications, and remain entirely unaware of the attacks on their character as a result of the social media group’s private status and heavily moderated members list,” it says.
An attorney for D’Ambrosio has since said that, in the context of closed-membership social media groups, there is effectively no ways for the victims of unfounded rumors to defend themselves against false accusations.
“It’s published in a forum which has about 80,000 people, and [D’Ambrosio] has no other recourse,” Nikolic said. “Things were posted about him that he cannot come back and refuse.”
“He can’t even get into the website,” Nikolic said, presumably referring to the Facebook group.
Nikolic observed that, in one instance, a woman accused his client of “criminal behavior” that he had nothing to do with.
“That was one of the posts,” Nikolic said, “[and] it also gave a photograph of a gentlemen who kind-of looked like our client, but not really.”