By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Hollis, who has practiced law since 1994, claims he immediately requested via phone and e-mail that Joseph remove the posting but that she "snubbed her nose" at his pleas. The posting was mysteriously deleted less than 36 hours after it was published. (Joseph says she did not remove the claim; that's up to people who post.)
Three other anonymous listings subsequently maligned him. Among the allegations: Hollis was bisexual, lived in "a dump," and knowingly spread herpes. Hollis set the record straight for New Times: He is not currently in a relationship; he has, at times, casually dated more than one woman at a time; he does not have herpes; he does not wear dirty clothes; his home is, in fact, clean.
"When you have to explain to someone that you don't have herpes or that you are not a dog, it really bothers you," says Hollis. "You feel awkward.... You don't know whether the whole world knows about it or if someone is looking at you in a different light because of it."
So this past June in front of TV cameras he announced his lawsuit against Joseph, and seven individuals who allegedly posted the remarks, for defamation. Hollis's suit notes he is a "well-known and highly respected" attorney. "It is absolutely reprehensible for someone to be able to come up with false, malicious, and defamatory information about someone and be able to do so with impunity and anonymity," he says.
In the three months since the first profile appeared, another five pertaining to Hollis have been posted. To date, they have been viewed more than 50,000 times.
"Todd Hollis is a liar," responds Joseph. "No one would have known about [him] if he hadn't gone to the media and blown the lawsuit up." Indeed the six-foot-two-inch Hollis appears to be playing Joseph at her own media game. Over the past two months, he has appeared via satellite with Joseph on a host of TV news shows and on Pittsburgh's KDKA, Fox News, MSNBC, and Court TV. In addition, Hollis's suit has been featured in a number of periodicals, including the Pittsburgh City Paper.
"The fact that more attention is drawn to my name as a result of my lawsuit is an unfortunate necessity to prevent other men from being victims," says Hollis. "Todd Hollis is just one person in the entire scheme of this elaborate nonsense that Ms. Joseph has created."
At issue is whether Joseph is responsible in any way for the posts on her site. Joseph's attorney, Rodriguez-Taseff, points out that a 1996 federal law protects people like Joseph who run Websites. "She is no more likely to be held liable than the coffeeshop owner would be for comments customers might make."
The provision has been tested. In 1997 Kenneth M. Zeran sued AOL after it published unsubstantiated allegations in a chatroom that he was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. Zeran lost. In 1998 a former Clinton aide sued AOL for publishing a Drudge Report column in which he was falsely accused of beating his wife. AOL argued that it was not acting as a publisher because it simply reprinted the column rather than supervising or editing it and a federal judge dismissed the case.
But Hollis's attorney, John Orie, contends the law protects only ISPs, Internet service providers. He says DDHG is "not an ISP. She pays a monthly fee to an ISP. She is a secondary distributor of false information." Thus Joseph is responsible for the postings' veracity, he contends.
Comments Hollis: "Ultimately at the end of the day, my only desire is to protect the one thing that I hold most dear: my name, dignity, and reputation."
He is, of course, not popular in the Joseph camp. "If you topple this Website, I will personally scratch your eyes out!!!" one member warns him in a posting. "And I will start another Website just like this one ... as a service to the women out there who need to be protected from men like you! Got it?"
Tasha Joseph will likely be busy until March, when she intends to get hitched. For starters, there are her two new Websites. She plans to launch the first, GreatGuysToDate.com, at the end of this month. The second, DontDateHerMan.com essentially a male version of DDHG was scheduled to launch this past April, but the response was underwhelming. She hopes to get it going soon.
"Men and women are very different, but at the end of the day, we are all animals," Joseph laments. She confesses to having certain reservations about the project. "Men will probably just use the site not to warn other men but just slander," she says. "You know, insult women, or say, 'She's a bitch,' or something derogatory."
Next month Joseph is scheduled to appear at a court hearing in Pittsburgh the first leg of a process that could eventually topple her Website.
If it comes out that Hollis is guilty of the allegations posted in his profile, he deserves the bad press. If he is innocent, like many of the guys on DDHG, it would be a shame he was fingered wrongly.
But one thing is certain. Because she vets nothing on DDHG for accuracy, Joseph has no idea what is true or false. And who can blame her when she has so much trouble deciphering the details of her own life?