The lawsuit filed Friday describes how Doe, then a high school student who was not yet out as gay, downloaded Grindr in order to make friends with other underage boys. He then exchanged explicit photographs and messages with the four adult men, who raped him in their homes or in parks, according to the complaint.
After the teen testified at their criminal trials, three of the four men were subsequently convicted of sexually interfering with a child and imprisoned for periods ranging between 24 and 54 months, per the lawsuit. The fourth has not been located.
Accusing the company of being aware that its product is facilitating children being raped, the lawsuit equates Grindr to other organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church that have “turned a blind eye on systemic child sexual abuse exploitation.”
It accuses Grindr of marketing to children by virtue of maintaining accounts on Instagram and TikTok, social media platforms where many brands — from other dating apps to alcohol companies — also have accounts.
The lawsuit also highlights two TikTok videos, which have since been removed by Grindr, in which adult content creators pretend to be students outside a high school or in a physical education class. The lawsuit claims the latter “explicitly takes place in an elementary school, middle school, or high school” class.
“With this video on TikTok, Grindr is directly marketing to children and targeting them with messaging that indicates both that Grindr should be used in school, and that it should be used by children,” the lawsuit states.
Grindr’s TikTok account, which has more than 138,000 followers, is routinely taken over by adult content creators who post videos on the company’s behalf.
The lawsuit claims Grindr could have prevented Doe’s abuse by employing a third-party age verification service, requiring a government ID to use the app, or blocking its use at schools, among other things.
Lenihan, the Grindr spokesperson, said Apple, Google, and the entire tech industry need to work together to develop better age gate technology that also respects user privacy.
Doe is suing Grindr for defective design, defective manufacturing, defective warning, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. He is also bringing a claim for civil action under a section of the US Code that deals with human trafficking.