If you’ve frequented online dating sites, chances are you’ve come across a profile photo that looked vaguely familiar, like a porn star whose name you can’t quite remember.
The adult performer in question may have been 31-year-old “Melissa Midwest” Harrington, who is joining a class-action suit against Match.com for allowing her image to be used on tens of thousands of fake profiles without her permission.
According to the $4.5 billion suit, which was filed late last month, the former Playboy model says her copyrighted images have been posted on fraudulent dating profiles on Match.com, as well as a number of other dating websites owned by Match.com parent company InterActive Corp (IAC).
In the suit, Harrington says that Match.com is “intentionally” using her image to boost profits and website traffic. She says she’s gotten “thousands of complaints from American romance-scam victims over the past six-plus years” who were duped by her images, as well as complaints from “hundreds of victims who were defrauded out of millions of dollars.”
Harrington is not the first to sue Match.com for allegedly defrauding its customers. She’s joining the suit on the heels of model Yuliana Avalos, who filed a suit accusing Match.com of posting her copyrighted photos without her consent last November. But she’s one of the more high-profile parties to file suit against the company. This isn’t her first lawsuit, either: In 2007, she made headlines for filing a $75,000 suit against the city of Lincoln, Neb., alleging that police officers harassed her during public appearances at a local strip club.
While Harrington’s suit might not be motivated solely out of concern for the “hundreds of victims” who’ve been defrauded by Match.com, it’s clear that dating site users misrepresenting themselves on their profiles is a legitimate issue—not just for the original copyright holders of the fraudulent images but for other dating site users, 54 percent of whom report having been duped by a fraudulent or inaccurate profile photo.
Match.com, however, doesn’t seem to be losing any sleep over the issue. A spokesperson for Match.com told the New York Post that the lawsuit is “filled with outlandish conspiracy theories and clumsy fabrications in lieu of factual or legal basis.”
H/T New York Post | Screengrab via Amine Hasnaoui/YouTube