FTC Accuses Jerk.com of Misusing Facebook Profiles

Don't be a jerk. That's the message the Federal Trade Commission is sending to the operators of Jerk.com after charging the site with harvesting personal information from Facebook to create profiles that mark them either as "jerk" or "not a jerk" and then claiming falsely that consumers could change their profile for a $30 fee.

From 2009 to 2013, Jerk LLC, which is owned by Napster co-founder John Fanning, created more than 73 million Jerk.com profiles -- and even brought children into the nefarious mix, according to the FTC's complaint.

The complaint charges the defendants with violating the FTC Act by leading consumers to believe that the content on Jerk.com had been created by other Jerk.com users. The truth is most of it had been harvested from Facebook. The FTC is also charging that Jerk.com's operators mislead consumers to believe that by paying for a Jerk.com membership, they could access "premium" features that could allow them to change their "Jerk" profile, which in fact they could not do.

Playing Off Online Reputations

"In today's interconnected world, people are especially concerned about their reputation online, and this deceptive scheme was a brazen attempt to exploit those concerns," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC is seeking an order that bars the defendants' alleged deceptive practices and stops them from using the personal information they are accused of scraping. The FTC also wants Jerk.com to dump all the data it gleaned under false pretenses.

Jerk.com profiles often appeared in search engine results when consumers searched for an individual's name, the FTC said. When consumers viewed their photos on Jerk.com, the regulator charged, many believed that someone they knew had created their Jerk.com profile. Jerk is charged with reinforcing this view by representing that users created all the content on Jerk.

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