Steven Sheerer, the 25-year-old man charged with 3rd Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child and 3rd Degree Distribution of Obscenity to a Minor for sending a nude photograph to Rosie O’Donnell’s then-17-year-old daughter, is using “the Tinder Defense.”
Sheerer encountered Chelsea O’Donnell on Tinder, an application for “i” operating systems on iPhones, iPads and such that allows users to connect with and possibly date other people. Sheerer allegedly sent a nude photograph of himself to the underage O’Donnell, and was criminally charged accordingly.
According to Sheerer, Tinder’s age-based categories led him to believe that O’Donnell was at least 18 years of age. Depending on several other facts, that could be a successful defense.
Tinder clusters people into 3 age-based categories with data pulled from users’ Facebook profiles:
– People younger than 13 cannot sign up for an account;
– People ages 13 – 17 years + 364 days can connect only with others in the same age group;
– People from 18 to Infinity can connect only with others in the same age group, excepting people with whom you connected while in the 13 – 17 age group, who will remain in your account.
Two problems leap to mind:
– Some people lie about their ages on Facebook and beyond. No, really; some people lie. People can deceitfully claim to be younger or older than their actual ages;
– Creating, deleting and creating new Tinder accounts seems as easy as falling off a log.
As a result, someone could easily violate Tinder’s age categories and if Chelsea O’Donnell did so and if Sheerer did not know it when he sent the nude photograph to her, then he has a pretty strong defense. At this point, we don’t know these circumstances.
A corollary for the rest of us is: be careful on Tinder because those age categories are as porous as fishnet stockings and there’s a good chance you will connect with someone older or younger than you think (which tends to be “business as usual” on the internet, anyway).
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.