2006-07-10 17:53:54 UTC
Victims of love used to gather the shards of a broken heart, cry on a friend's
shoulder and quietly file the episode away as a character-building experience.
Today, scorned lovers post anonymous diatribes on dating-advice Web sites. They name
names, divulge graphic details of disappointing sexual encounters, and warn future
potential victims about the charming cads who wade in the shallow end of the dating
But one alleged cheater says his reputation has been so harmed by the posts on a site
called DontDateHimGirl.com that he's suing the owner - and he's hired a private
investigator to dig up dirt on her and her site's anonymous posters.
Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Todd Hollis says his ordeal began when he got a
concerned call from his mother, who is a minister. She wanted to know if he had a
sexually transmitted disease. A friend pointed her to Hollis' photo and profile on
"It was terrible," Hollis told Courttvnews.com.
Hollis, 38, discovered four anonymous posts about him on the site's "alleged cheater"
"Dark and handsome, ladies, he looks like a chocolate dream until you get to know
him," one person wrote.
The accusations from alleged former girlfriends ran the gamut from "Todd Hollis gave
me herpes," and "heard he was gay," to "he wears dirty clothes," "complains about
paying child support" and "he got hook-ups in every zip code."
Hollis says he called the owner of the site, Tasha Joseph, but she refused to take
down the posts.
"I pleaded with her that the information was incorrect, and that the reference could
personally hurt my business and my family," Hollis said. "She snubbed her nose at me
and refused to do so."
"That's a lie," Joseph told Courttvnews.com. "He never did that, he never contacted
me, and he clearly knows that. He went straight to the media."
Joseph, 33, said she first heard Hollis' name from a reporter at the Pittsburgh Post
Gazette. Hollis filed a defamation suit against the Web site owner on June 29.
He also claims to have hired a private eye to investigate Joseph, her family, and the
anonymous posters, whom he believes knowingly and maliciously published false and
defamatory statements about him.
"It just goes to show you the lengths he will go to intimidate me," Joseph says.
"He's hired someone to follow my 65-year-old parents, who have nothing to do at all
Hollis says that as an attorney, he is taking every action to be prepared for a
trial. Just as his character has been attacked on Joseph's site, he says, he intends
to investigate information that could shed light on Joseph's character.
"That's just what you do," Hollis says. "I certainly didn't go into this with the
intention of researching Tasha Joseph's past."
Hollis is seeking $350,000 in damages and alleges seven counts of defamation by
Joseph; the Cavelle Company, which owns the site's domain name; Carolyn Lattimore and
Alescia Roskov, two of the alleged posters; and five unidentified women whom he hopes
to unmask in the discovery process.
Hollis says he has never met Lattimore. Roskov, he claims, is a woman he casually
dated about three years ago.
Joseph says she will vigorously fight the suit and protect the anonymity of the
registered users who post on her site.
"I think it's a meritless case," she said. "We're protected by the Communications
Decency Act. It's pretty clear to me, but obviously it's not so clear to Mr. Hollis."
More specifically, Joseph is protected under Section 230 of the 1996 Act, which
guards online service providers from being sued for the actions of others.
"Section 230 means you don't blame the soapbox for what the speaker says ," according
to Rebecca Jeschke, spokesperson for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"It protects publishers or people who host Web forums for liability. ... The writers
are the ones who are responsible for their speech."
Hollis would have to prove he's been defamed by the posters, Jeschke says, or that
private facts have been exposed about him.
The First Amendment protects anonymous speech, and the EFF has been involved in
several recent cases that upheld the rights of anonymous message board posters.
"People have a right to slam their ex-boyfriends," Jeschke says. "The question is:
When does it cross the line? When it crosses the line is when they can be unmasked."
Joseph, a former Miami Herald columnist, says that this is the first time her
six-month-old site has been sued.
"It's utterly ridiculous," she says. "And I will not be intimated or bullied."
To set the record straight, Hollis confirmed that he is not currently in a
relationship; he has, at times, dated more than one woman at a time; he does not have
herpes; he does not wear dirty clothes; and while it's possible he may have
complained about paying child support, his payments are always current.
His lawsuit notes that he is a "well-known and highly respected" attorney, who has
"an excellent reputation for honesty and integrity in both his business and personal
affairs," and that his earning capacity has been impaired by Joseph's conduct.
Hollis has suffered, according to the suit, "embarrassment, humiliation, and
emotional distress, which may be permanent in nature," because of Joseph's refusal to
remove the allegedly defamatory statements.
DontDateHimGirl.com is promoted as "a new cost-effective weapon in the war on
The site claims an average of 600,000 hits per day, with a database of "thousands of
cheating men - with more being added each day!"
The sassy, girl-power-centric site offers articles such as "Four Simple Ways to Meet
a Great Guy!" ("Tip #1 . Smile and wave"), an "Ask Your Girl" column, where Joseph
gives advice on questions like, "How do I boost my self-esteem after a break-up?" and
a way for men to "Post Your Side of the Story!"
Hollis says he did not care to tell his side.
"The rebuttal process is equally ridiculous," he said. "It's done through e-mail and
you have to e-mail Ms. Joseph. It's very difficult to rebut information when you have
no references as to who the poster is."
Joseph says rebuttals are not done by e-mail, but that anyone can post comments,
which are automatically attached to the profile and not vetted by her in any way.
Hollis still wants Joseph held accountable.
"It is absolutely reprehensible for someone to be able to come up with false,
malicious and defamatory information about someone with the intent of destroying
their character, and be able to do so with impunity and anonymity," he says.
But the Web site is just one of several virtual snitching posts for the lovelorn.
WomanSavers.com ("Where Nice Guys Finish First!"), allows registered users to grouse
ad nauseam and to rate Mr. Wrong on a scale of 1-10 in such areas as sex, smarts, and
At PlayersAndPsychos.com, men moan about "psychos" and women wax pathetic about
the understanding that posters are solely responsible for what they write, that the
site does not control the content or guarantee the accuracy.
Users also agree not to post defamatory material or statements that would violate
another person's rights.
Some say Hollis should laugh it off and walk away.
His suit has already brought thousands more viewers to the negative posts.
"The fact that more attention is drawn to my name as a result of my lawsuit is an
unfortunate necessity as a result of doing what I believe is morally correct," Hollis
says. "I believe it's a necessity in order to prevent other men from being victi ms.
Todd Hollis is just one person in the entire scheme of this elaborate nonsense that
Ms. Joseph has created."
But Joseph says she will not take down the posts. And she does not feel a moral
responsibility to police the free exchange of information by the site's users.
"I think we're all grown-ups here," Joseph says. "People need to govern their own