Two popular dating websites have been using the same image of a handsome US soldier alongside text enticing daters to register with lines like "Soldiers want you!" A couple of problems: first, no one ever authorized use of the soldier's image for the sites, and second, he most definitely is not pining for an unmet dream internet woman — he was killed in Iraq in 2007. Now, his family has filed a lawsuit against both sites.
PlentyofFish and True.com have been sued for using a photo of Army Lt. Peter Burks that his family says was taken mere days before his death, according to CBS. Burks' parents speculate that the photo from the sites' ads may have been lifted from a memorial site they've established for their son, but they're not sure how it was obtained. Burks was engaged at the time that he died, so his family says there's no way he had a profile up on a dating website.
It's also not clear how long the ads were in use; the family found out about it back in December, when a friend of the family's recognized Burks' face in an ad that promised "Military Men Searching for Love!" and was redirected to True.com.
Of course, both PlentyofFish and True.com have no idea how any of these events transpired. Vancouver-based PlentyofFish claims that they didn't advertise in the US in the month of December, and that any dead soldier related shenanigans must have been perpetrated by third party advertisers. The CEO of True.com is similarly flummoxed.
This case presents larger questions for users of online dating websites (and for the general public). Are the pictures featured in dating site ads actually people who are interested in dating and on the site? Or are they just randomly fished images of people who may turn out to have died tragically many years before their time? This is sort of like learning that some of the individual laughs used in sitcom laugh tracks were recorded in the 1950's and likely belong to dead people having their laughs applied to jokes they probably wouldn't find funny at all.
The family of Peter Burks is suing for punitive and compensatory damages and says that any money received in an award or settlement will support military charities.