Todd Hollis was feeling the love last May, excited about a new relationship, when a call from an old girlfriend quickly brought him back to earth. Did you know, she asked, that you’re on a Web site, pictured as a sloppy, STD-ridden cheater? “I was mortified,” says Hollis, a 38-year-old Pittsburgh attorney. He categorically denied all those allegations, posted on dontdate himgirl.com. But when Hollis called the site’s creator, Miami-based Tasha Joseph, and begged her to remove the posts, she refused. So Hollis sued for defamation, seeking more than $50,000 in damages from Joseph, a former newspaper columnist, and seven women who posted messages about him.
Joseph, 33, says she’s not liable, thanks to the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which exempts Web masters from responsibility for displaying others’ comments. She says her eight-month-old site simply allows women “to talk about guys who have done them wrong.” Among recent postings: “I got pregnant by him, and he left me for a 14-year-old girl”; “He’s very self-absorbed and he lies a lot”; “This fool calls himself a rapper, dancer, engineer, all kinda other stuff but he really just works at OfficeMax.” Joseph—burned herself at 18 by an unfaithful boyfriend—is now engaged. “There are good guys out there,” she says. As for Hollis, his spring romance fizzled, but he’s looking for a comeback. “I’m a social leper,” he says. “But I hope to date again.”