An Oceanside teenager is suing four former high school classmates, their parents and Facebook for $3 million for allegedly bullying her in a private forum on the social-networking service.
Denise Finkel, 18, who is now a student at the University at Albany, filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accusing the former classmates of creating a password-protected Facebook group "calculated to hold the plaintiff up to public hatred, ridicule and disgrace."
The defendants - Michael Dauber, Jeffrey Schwartz, Leah Herz and Melinda Danowitz - are, like Finkel, 2008 graduates of Oceanside High School. The suit claims they asserted that Finkel, among other things, participated in bestiality and contracted AIDS.
Excerpts of the Facebook group from 2007 attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit did not identify Finkel by name, but her attorney, Mark Altschul of Manhattan, said the derogatory statements referred to her.
"She had a very difficult time in high school," Altschul said. "They were making sure that she was an unwanted soul there."
The number of online defamation lawsuits is increasing rapidly and it remains unclear if they are legally viable, said Andrew Keen, the author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture."
Finkel's mother, Linda Finkel, said her daughter has known the other teens named as defendants and their parents for "a long time."
"It's not a pleasant situation for anybody," she said.
Danowitz's mother, Bari Lewis, called the lawsuit "completely frivolous." She said her daughter, who attends the University of Delaware, "never wrote anything defamatory about anybody."
Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said, "We see no merit to this suit and we will fight it vigorously."
The other defendants did not respond to messages yesterday.