Alright, I'll admit it: Boston Legal is one of my favorite shows, even though I don't watch much TV and I'm consequently not very well qualified to make that statement. But still, it's a funny show. Last night's show featured a dispute with a fictional website, DateMistake.com. The site allowed women to post their thoughts about men they dated in order to warn other women off.
Admittedly, Boston Legal is like most TV legal shows: the legal life on the show is not completely accurate. One of Yogi Berra's sayings probably describes the legal actions on the show the best, "We made too many wrong mistakes." But don't get me wrong, Boston Legal is tremendously funny and good entertainment, even for lawyers.
The show also reflects real life. There's a similar, real-life site called DontDateHimGirl.com that attempts the same thing: women warning other women off about bad men. Just so you don't think all women are against men, the converse is out there too. It's a site where women recommend men they formerly dated or were engaged/married to; it's called GreatBoyfriends.com, along with its feminine counterpart on the same site, GreatGirlfriends.
The problem with the Don't Date Him Girl site is explained (oddly enough) by Julie Hilden on FindLaw. In the closing line of her article Ms. Hilden says, "In sum, Dontdatehimgirl.com is a brash, inventive site. But it may be skating on thin ice, legally." The site allows women to defame men by posting what others take as facts when it really isn't much more than opinion. Certainly truth is a defense to a suit for defamation and opinion itself is exempt, but the site itself may well be liable for incorrect facts women post, and the site doesn't appear to police what's written.
Take for example almost any of the postings on this page from DontDateHimGirl.com, and be prepared for explicit references. There are a significant number of defamatory postings on the site that would easily sustain a libel case. Yes, some are opinion, but some appear dangerously close to libel: "then i find out the girl before me was 15 years old and he dated her until she was 18." If this statement is not true, it constitutes libel per se. There are other issues with the site, as well. Detailed descriptions of the allegations of "cheating" come close to an invasion of privacy, if not actually invade it. A cursory review of the postings in the first link in this paragraph will give you more lurid details that invade the lives of the men who are the subject of the postings.
Not only are the women who post about their former dates liable, but the site is also likely liable as well. The disclaimers on the site likely can't overcome the presumptions attendant to defamation and the targets of the site may ultimately be able to get an injunction to shut it down, as well as damages. And yes, there's a Craig Williams listed on the site, but as you can tell by comparing his photograph with those on this site, it's not me. And no, there's no link here to the statements about Mr. Williams - I'm not going to republish identifiable defamatory statements.
Don't Date Him Girl probably shouldn't either. There's a big difference between television entertainment and publishing statements on the internet. When a lawyer's jilted lover makes it on the site, Don't Date Him Girl may find a class action in its future. On Boston Legal, a jilted lover who suffered through a posting on the fictional DateMistake.com recovered $25,000 for his troubles. Will life imitate art?