Jerk.com is accused of consumer deception; lawyers and law firms among website’s targets
Posted Apr 8, 2014 7:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A website that labeled lawyers, law firms and others as jerks is facing a deceptive-conduct lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission.
The Federal Trade Commission claims in its suit that Jerk.com harvested personal information from Facebook to create more than 73 million profiles of people and businesses that were labeled “jerk” or “not a jerk,” report the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and Legal Times (sub. req.).
Users could also create profiles for other people using a “post a jerk” feature and could write online comments about those who were profiled.
According to the administrative complaint (PDF), “Numerous consumers have complained that photographs and other information about them on Jerk were originally posted on Facebook using controls that enabled users to designate material for dissemination only to a limited group, and that the information was not designated for public viewing.”
The FTC says Jerk.com enticed consumers to pay a $30 membership fee to obtain "premium features" they believed would allow them to change or delete their online profiles. "In truth and in fact," the complaint says, "in numerous instances, consumers who subscribed to Jerk by paying for a standard membership received nothing in return for their payment."
Jerk.com operated from 2009 to 2013. The website also earned money through online ads and a $25 fee to contact Jerk.com by email.
Legal Times visited the website and noted headlines deeming the Pillsbury law firm and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton to be jerks, supposedly for providing bad or wrong advice. Legal Times was unable to obtain comment from the firms.
The FTC says Jerk.com registered websites with Facebook and used application programming interfaces to download Facebook data for Jerk.com profiles. Facebook sent a sent a cease-and-desist order to Jerk.com in March 2012, the Wall Street Journal says.
Jerk.com is operated by Napster Inc. co-founder John Fanning, the Wall Street Journal says.