Social Media Platforms Sued for Profiting from Online Harassment

Plaintiffs Jesseca Dupart and Shawntae Harris have filed a complaint against Rodney J. Roussell, as well as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter for trademark infringement arising from a harassment campaign allegedly carried out by Roussell. The social media platforms were sued because they allegedly benefitted from the harassment.

The individual defendant is a gossip video blogger, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs claimed that Roussell engaged in a campaign of “false and malicious YouTube and social media…harassment, stalking, extortion, falsely designating the origin of products that feature the [plaintiffs’] marks, disparagement, invasion of privacy and defamation against Plaintiffs in an unlawful attempt to divert Plaintiffs’ customers to his own ‘Sip Cosmetics’ products…”The plaintiffs claimed that this campaign infringed and damaged their trademarks. The plaintiffs claimed Roussell created “fake news” stories on his account damaging to the plaintiffs, including a false claim that Dupart changed her name to hide negative legal history.

The plaintiffs noted that the defendant maintains a monetized, advertiser-supported YouTube account, therefore, Roussell and YouTube benefit from his content every time it is watched. The complaint contained screenshots showing Roussell admitting that “his Sip Cosmetics line had grossed more than $30,000.00 from his campaign against Plaintiff Dupart.”

The plaintiffs alleged that YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have also benefited from his misconduct and allowed this misconduct to occur on their platforms. Despite asking YouTube and Instagram to remove the harmful videos, including those that violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the plaintiffs claimed that the social media platforms failed to act.

The plaintiffs accused the defendants of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin, unfair trade practices, violations of business reputation and dilution law, defamation, tortious interference, trade libel, and product disparagement.

The plaintiffs have sought a declaratory judgment, an order enjoining against further infringement, an injunction and to destroy all infringing materials, to require YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter to take down and remove and content using plaintiffs’ marks or other material related to plaintiffs, an award for damages, award for unjust enrichment, an award for costs and fees and other relief as determined by the court.

The complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs are represented by Fishman Haygood.