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From Antitrust Law Daily, March 25, 2015

Operator of website deceived consumers, FTC rules

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

The operators of the “” website, which was marketed as “the anti-social network,” deceived consumers about the source of the content on the website, the FTC announced in a ruling today. In a summary opinion, the Commission found that the website operator —Jerk, LLC and its creator John Fanning— misled consumers by claiming that the content on the website was posted by other users when most of the content was mined by the operators from Facebook. The FTC also found that the company and Fanning misrepresented the benefits of a paid membership, which purported allowed consumers to update information on their profiles.

In April 2014, the FTC filed an administrative complaint, (In re Matter of Jerk LLC, File No. 122-3141), alleging that, between 2009 and 2013, Jerk, LLC and Fanning, created unique consumer profiles for more than 73 million people, including millions of profiles with pictures of children. The profiles often appeared in search engine results when consumers searched for an individual’s name. Upon viewing their photos on, many believed that someone they knew had created their profile. Jerk reinforced this view by representing that users created all the content on Jerk.

The defendants actually created the vast majority of the profiles by misusing personal information they improperly obtained through the online social networking service Facebook, the FTC alleged. The defendants also allegedly charged consumers $25 to email’s customer service department, and also falsely told consumers that if they paid $30 for a website subscription, they could access “premium features,” including the ability to dispute information posted on, and receive fast notifications and special updates. But, in many cases, consumers who paid the customer service or subscription fee often got nothing in return.

According to the FTC’s summary opinion, the Commission focused on whether the defendants made the representations alleged in the complaint and whether the representations were false, misleading, and material in analyzing their liability for deception. First, the FTC determined that statements made on the website and on Twitter expressly represented that the content on the website was created by users. Second, the uncontroverted evidence showed that the defendants’ representations about the source of the content on were false, since the profiles were in fact created by the defendants, largely from information taken from Facebook. Finally, there was a sufficient showing that the representations were material to consumers and affected their conduct.

The final order, that accompanies the opinion, requires the company and Fanning to delete all personal and customer information collected during the operation of the now-defunct website within 30 days, and prohibits them from selling or disclosing any of that information. The order also prohibits them from misrepresenting the source of any content on a website, including personal information, and from misrepresenting the benefits of joining any service.

Companies: Jerk, LLC

MainStory: TopStory ConsumerProtection FederalTradeCommissionNews

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