Man in violation of privacy law

Breaking news and expert analysis on legal and compliance issues

[Back To Home][Back To Archives]

From Antitrust Law Daily, March 25, 2015

Operator of Jerk.com website deceived consumers, FTC rules

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

The operators of the “Jerk.com” 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 Jerk.com 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 Jerk.com unique consumer profiles for more than 73 million people, including millions of profiles with pictures of children. The Jerk.com profiles often appeared in search engine results when consumers searched for an individual’s name. Upon viewing their photos on Jerk.com, many believed that someone they knew had created their Jerk.com 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 Jerk.com’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 Jerk.com, 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 Jerk.com website and on Twitter expressly represented that the content on the website was created by Jerk.com users. Second, the uncontroverted evidence showed that the defendants’ representations about the source of the content on Jerk.com 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

Antitrust Law Daily

Introducing Wolters Kluwer Antitrust Law Daily — a daily reporting service created by attorneys, for attorneys — providing same-day coverage of breaking news, court decisions, legislation, and regulatory activity.


A complete daily report of the news that affects your world

  • View full summaries of federal and state court decisions.
  • Access full text of legislative and regulatory developments.
  • Customize your daily email by topic and/or jurisdiction.
  • Search archives for stories of interest.

Not just news — the right news

  • Get expert analysis written by subject matter specialists—created by attorneys for attorneys.
  • Track law firms and organizations in the headlines with our new “Who’s in the News” feature.
  • Promote your firm with our new reprint policy.

24/7 access for a 24/7 world

  • Forward information with special copyright permissions, encouraging collaboration between counsel and colleagues.
  • Save time with mobile apps for your BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle.
  • Access all links from any mobile device without being prompted for user name and password.