RICHMOND, Va. -- Viewers contacted WTVR CBS 6 with questions about a website that they said is being used to anonymously harass men and woman online. Users are able to post pictures and write lewd or sensitive comments below them by simply providing an email address.
The website, "Deadbeat Directory," appears to be set up to allow users to shame parents who owe child support. However, many of the posts contain false statements, according to victims.
"There is no telling what they might say about you," said a Richmond woman who asked to remain anonymous because her photo has been posted on the site at least five times without her permission. "It's stuff that would make people go and commit suicide basically."
The woman said she deactivated her personal Facebook page because people were stealing her photo and posting it on deabbeatdirectory.com. She said she knows of dozens of other people in Richmond who feel they have been victimized. A search of the site seems to confirm her statement.
"People hide behind computers and phones and stuff like that to humiliate people," she said.
Under the site's disclaimer section, the moderators of the site write they cannot "accept responsibility or liability (expressed or implied, contractual, tortious or otherwise) for any material contributed" to the website. The disclaimer also reads the site does not ensure accuracy or fact check its content and that, "the content posted is intended for entertainment purposes only."
Social media experts said they are concerned that sites like this negatively impact a person's social life.
"You're just seeing a tiny piece of their life and it's been blown up. Potentially it's accurate, more likely it's inaccurate and dangerous. There is really no way to prevent it," said social media expert Christina Dick, who added similar sites have been shut down in the past.
Some of the posts are technically opinion and protected under free speech laws, according to legal experts. However, deliberately spreading a lie to cause real harm to another person could rise to the level of misdemeanor harassment, experts said.
"If it's knowingly posted as a false factual issue then that's something that's actionable," said legal expert Todd Stone.
WTVR CBS 6 attempted to contact the operators of the website, but our messages had not been returned as of 6 p.m. Wednesday.