Unethical Website of the Month September 2006

Don't Date Him Girl

"Dontdatehimgirl" is, at its black heart, a revenge website, which makes it unethical right off the bat. But that's just for starters. It also facilitates anonymous drive-by libel and scurrilous rumors, and provides a medium for any man's enemies to damage his reputation, social life and career under cover. The site does all this with the self-righteous claim, as articulated by its founder, Tasha Joseph, that it is providing a necessary service to women.

"We get e-mails every day from women who have seen guys on DontDateHimGirl.com and haven't dated the guy because they heard or read about what the guy has done to other women," she has said. Well, that's not exactly accurate, is it? They haven't dated him because of what an anonymous poster on the site said the guy has done, which is something else entirely. The Dontdatehimgirl informant might be a rejected ex-lover just trying to get even by spreading rumors. It might be the angry roommate or sister of the guy's former girlfriend, engaged in a misguided effort to support her, repeating hearsay and emotional exaggerations as fact. It might even be a male posing as a former girlfriend, using the site to derail the prospects of a rival for another woman's attentions.

Joseph claims that "Dontdatehimgirl" is "fair" because men who are attacked on the site can post their defense next to their profiles. It is a disingenuous claim at best. How does someone defend himself against an anonymous accuser who claims he is promiscuous, infected with sexually transmitted diseases, lousy in bed, physically abusive, or gay? The site's claim to legitimacy would be far stronger if it prohibited anonymous posts, but then, of course, accusers would be accountable for their words. So instead "Dontdatehimgirl" relies on making users agree to a set of laughable and mostly unenforced (because they are mostly unenforceable) "conditions," such as

"You agree to act responsibly at this site…

…You agree that you will not post on the Service… any defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, obscene, profane, offensive, sexually oriented, threatening, harassing, racially offensive, or illegal material, or any material that infringes or violates another party's rights …

…You will not provide inaccurate, misleading or false information to the Company or to any other Registered User.

…If information provided to the Company, or another Registered User, subsequently becomes inaccurate, misleading or false, you will promptly notify the Company of such information…"

Gee, I guess that guarantees that everything on the site is true, then!

In fact, much of what is posted is "defamatory", quite possibly "inaccurate," certainly "abusive," definitely "offensive" (certainly to its targets!) and undeniably "sexually oriented." And a lot of it violates "other parties' rights" to privacy. Joseph clearly doesn't care that her site is unfair and unethical; she just wants to make sure it doesn't expose her to liability, a condition that an October trial of a lawsuit against the site is about to challenge. While "Dontdatehimgirl" may have carefully positioned itself to avoid sanctions in fact for the defamation laws it offends in spirit, its many forms of ethical misconduct are clear:

It is dishonest. While the site claims that its goal is to provide warnings to innocent women before they become victims of serial cheats and abusers on the dating scene, it knows that its greatest appeal and most frequent use is likely to be as an engine of vengeance by jilted lovers and ex-girlfriends against the men who dared to leave them.

It is reckless and irresponsible. The site can be used by anyone who wants to injure a man's reputation, not just ex-girlfriends, and it can easily be accessed by far more than someone's potential dates, including one's children, parents, investigators, journalists, supervisors and potential employers.

Even when the information posted is accurate, it violates the principles of kindness, forgiveness, and the Golden Rule. Many people learn from their mistakes and bad conduct in failed relationships. They have a right to embark on new romantic connections with a clean slate, without having to reveal and explain every bad act that may have wrecked the last one.

It is cowardly and unfair. The site permits anonymous attacks of the most personal nature, allowing accusers to avoid any accountability.

Naturally, as with most things that appeal to the baser aspects of human nature, "Dontdatehimgirl" is a huge internet success. Simply pointing out that what it promotes is wrong is unlikely to damage its popularity. This is one case where the Scoreboard will be rooting for the courts to accomplish what the conscience cannot: putting a truly mean-spirited and unethical website out of business.

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