Jerk.com Accused Of Using Facebook Profiles To Con People Into Paying To Remove “Jerk” Label

A screengrab of an old Jerk.com profile. The FTC alleges that the site took millions of Facebook users' photos and info, allowed people to label them as "jerks" and then tried to charge them $30 to have that label cleaned up.

A screengrab of an old Jerk.com profile. The FTC alleges that the site took millions of Facebook users’ photos and info, allowed people to label them as “jerks” and then tried to charge them $30 to have that label cleaned up.

The Internet has its share of websites that let people post negative comments and statements about individuals and businesses, and then turn around and allow the insulted parties to remove that content (for a fee, of course). The Federal Trade Commission has accused one such site of creating millions of fake profiles in order to scam Facebook users out of $30 each.

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF] against the operator of Jerk.com (and jerk.be, and jerk.org), between 2009 and 2013 there were upwards of 81.6 million unique profiles posted on the site.

Like the old “Hot or Not?” type sites, Jerk profiles showed a picture for each profile, accompanied by buttons that could let people vote “Jerk” or “Not a Jerk.” The profile could also be filled in with info like the person’s age, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, occupation, school, employer, license plate number, and Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and eBay account information.

In addition to the photo and private info, haters could pile on in the comments section, writing things like the ever-charming “[She] just can go f**cking slaughter herself . . . Nobody in their right mind would love you . . . not even your parents love [you].”

Even better, the FTC says that as many as 6.8 million of the profiles on the site were of children below the age of 10. Nothing better than rage-filled, anonymous comments directed at a third-grader.

Documentation on the site claimed that all content was generated by Jerk.com users, and that for a $30 “premium” membership, people could go in and scrub up their profiles, but not remove them.

“No one’s profile is ever removed because Jerk is based on searching free open internet, searching databases and it’s not possible to remove things from the Internet,” read an explanation on the site. “You can however use Jerk to manage your reputation and resolve disputes with people who you are in conflict with.”

This is all sketchy enough, but the FTC’s big problem isn’t the scuzzy hold-your-reputation-hostage aspect, it’s the fact that much of the site’s content was allegedly stolen from Facebook and not posted by Jerk.com users.

From the complaint:

Beginning in February 2010, respondents, directly or indirectly, registered numerous websites with Facebook, including Jerk.com, Jerk2.com, Jerk3.com, Jerk4.com, and Jerk.be. Respondents accessed Facebook’s data through Facebook’s APIs and downloaded names and photographs of Facebook users. Respondents used this data to create unique Jerk profiles for millions of consumers.

Making matters even worse, many people who paid the $30 membership fee in hopes of de-jerking their profiles found they didn’t have any of the “premium” perks that had been promised by the site.

This contact form charged Jerk.com users a $25 fee just to e-mail the site's operators. Click to see full-size.

This contact form charged Jerk.com users a $25 fee just to e-mail the site’s operators. Click to see full-size.

And just to top things off, Jerk.com charged a $25 fee — JUST TO CONTACT THE SITE. See the FTC’s screengrab of the old contact form at left.

Not that any of these expenses or attempts mattered, as the FTC says Jerk.com ignored e-mails from users, did not respond to copyright takedown notices sent to the site’s hosting providers. It also ignored requests from law enforcement to remove images deemed to pose a safety risk, including one sheriff’s deputy’s request for the site to delete a profile that was endangering a 13-year-old girl.

The FTC is seeking an order barring the defendants’ deceptive practices, prohibiting them from using the personal information they improperly obtained, and requiring them to delete the information.

“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.

At some point in the past year, the site seems to have been changed over to some sort of general complaints site that is still not worth the visit or a link.