Four New York men, including two from Long Island, on Friday filed a federal copyright suit against the anonymous website huntingapredator.com for posting online their pictures and texts they allegedly exchanged with someone they thought was a young girl.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, alleges that the effort to out men who engage in suggestive online encounters is a "criminal website scheme" in which the operator "criminally impersonates" an under-18 female and "misappropriates" men's words and images to portray them as "underage predators for profit."
"This is a scheme to get clicks to a website, to get money," said Queens lawyer Anastasi Pardalis, who is seeking an injunction ordering the site to take down information on clients Carlos Roa of East Setauket, Daniel Amhi of Lynbrook, Hardy Calderone of Queens and Scott Benites of Manhattan.
The site describes itself as a "not for profit civilian operation since 2011," and declares, "We dislike child predators. The men featured on this website have acted in ways that we consider to be detrimental to the future of our species." It is free, but has a button for donations.
The lawsuit was filed against a "John Doe" operator of the site and its Panama-based Internet service provider. No one responded to a request for comment sent to an email address linked to the site's operators.
The four plaintiffs, according to the lawsuit, were all customers of an over-18 dating site, where they posted pictures and profiles. They met a user named "barbiesnumberonefan," who posed as a young female and eventually said she was younger than 18.
Next thing they knew, their pictures and full transcripts of their texts were posted on huntingapredator.com.
The site operator rejected emailed requests to take them down, noting in one response to Calderon, "This is more heinous than sending nude photography."
Pardalis said he has twice gotten Internet service providers to cancel service based on the copyright claims, but the website keeps switching ISPs.
He called the site a "misguided effort" to make money based on a lie that had no connection to law enforcement.
"They're not helping anyone, they're not getting anyone arrested," he said.
"When you believe that someone has committed a crime, you have a moral obligation to contact law enforcement, not putting pictures on the Internet of people who have been led into a trap."