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Lawyers for former Tinder execs file to dismiss ‘retaliatory’ defamation lawsuit

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Last week, former Tinder CEO Greg Blatt filed a defamation lawsuit against Sean Rad and Rosette Pambakian, who are part of a group of Tinder founders and former executives who accused Blatt (pictured above) of sexual harassment and assault as part of a broader suit.

Now Rad and Pambakian’s attorneys have filed their own motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that it “seeks to chill protected speech through costly litigation” — in other words, that it’s the kind of lawsuit prohibited under California’s anti-SLAPP law.

“This lawsuit is intended to muzzle Rosette and Sean from telling the truth about how [IAC chairman] Barry Diller and Greg Blatt stole from their employees and covered up sexual assault allegations,” said Rad and Pambakian’s attorney Orin Snyder in a statement. “Unfortunately, unlawful retaliatory lawsuits like this one designed to silence victims and violate their First Amendment rights are all too common in the #metoo era.”

In the filing, Rad and Pambakian’s attorneys also argued that Blatt filed the suit “solely to launch a public smear campaign against Pambakian and the person who reported the assault to Match, Sean Rad. At the same time, and now that Blatt’s public court filings have served his media objective, Blatt says that the complaint that he himself chose to file in court should actually be sent to private arbitration.”

In response, Blatt’s attorney Vineet Bhatia sent the following statement:

We fully expected this run-of-the-mill, procedural smoke screen to be made by Rad and Pambakian. These arguments are legally wrong and we expect to prevail in Court. The bottom line is, Rad and Pambakian conspired to defame Mr. Blatt and should be held responsible.

Both Blatt’s suit and the new filing seek to connect the case to the broader #metoo movement (which, as Snyder alluded to, has seen a number of high-profile figures accused of sexual assault, and who then fought back through defamation lawsuits).

Blatt’s lawyers argued that “Rad and Pambakian have attempted to weaponize an important social movement, undermining the plight of true victims of sexual abuse by making false accusations in cynical pursuit of a $2 billion windfall.”

In contrast, Rad and Pambakian’s attorneys said the “ensuing crescendo of retaliation — reminiscent of many Hollywood #MeToo cases — included [Tinder’s parent company] Match circling the wagons around Blatt, publicly belittling Pambakian by chalking up the assault to ‘consensual cuddling,’ and firing her months later after she refused to sign an NDA.”

In a lawsuit filed in the summer of 2018, Rad (Tinder’s co-founder and former CEO), Pambakian (who was then the company’s vice president of marketing and communications), Rad’s fellow co-founders Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen and others sued Match and its controlling shareholder IAC, accusing them of manipulating financial data and removing Rad as CEO in order to create a “fake lowball valuation” and strip the founders and executives of their stock options.

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The suit also accused Blatt — who served as an executive at IAC and as CEO of Match before replacing Rad as CEO of Tinder — of sexually harassing Pambakian at a company holiday party in 2016.

IAC and Match have called this suit meritless. And in Blatt’s defamation lawsuit, his attorneys said the encounter between Blatt and Pambakian at the holiday party was consensual and that Rad and Pambakian subsequently “conspired to make false allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Blatt with the specific intent to damage Blatt’s good name, personal and professional reputation, and credibility.”

In a footnote, Rad and Pambakian’s attorneys say that because they’re making a free speech argument, their motion to dismiss Blatt’s suit does not require the court to “delve into the facts.” However, they add:

Blatt’s false narrative — that this was consensual, and that Pambakian and Rad concocted the assault allegations to aid their valuation lawsuit — is patently false and offensive. The evidence shows that Blatt admitted being drunk at the holiday party, making inappropriate comments to Pambakian, and “snuggling and nuzzling” her in a hotel bed. It further shows that Blatt apologized to Pambakian the following week, and later offered to resign over his misconduct. These are not the actions of an innocent man, nor is it the first time Blatt has been accused of mistreating women in the workplace.

To back that up, the motion points to a Gawker article describing supposed harassment and verbal abuse by an unnamed “CEO of a major dating site” owned by a corporation “in a glass building on the far side of town” (subsequent coverage has suggested that the piece was about Blatt).

Pambakian withdrew from the initial suit due to an arbitration agreement, but is now suing Blatt and Match for wrongful termination and sexual assault.

You can read the full motion below.

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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Searchenginejournal.com

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