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All Time Low Still Seeking to Unmask Social Media User Who Alleged Sex Abuse

More than two years after filing a libel lawsuit over anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct, Jack Barakat and his band All Time Low are still working to unmask the accuser who went online in 2021 and claimed to be a former fan abused by Barakat as an underage girl, the group’s lawyer says.

At a Wednesday morning hearing, the judge overseeing the lawsuit asked for an update on the civil case first filed back in 2022. “It’s getting kind of old,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daniel S. Murphy said from the bench. “What’s the holdup?”

The band’s lawyer, Michael Garfinkel, said he needed more time to identify and serve any of the Doe defendants listed in the complaint. “It’s been rough sledding, but we keep persisting,” Garfinkel said. “We very much appreciate your patience along the way. I would like to try to see this effort through, if that’s all right with the court.”

In filings ahead of the hearing, Garfinkel informed the court that subpoenas previously sent to Twitter and TikTok had failed to identify the central accuser in the case. The allegedly female accuser, referred to as Doe 2, gave the most detailed first-person account of alleged abuse referenced in the lawsuit. In a lengthy statement posted online in October 2021, Doe 2 alleged that Barakat sexually abused her over several years, starting in 2011 when she was a 15-year-old fan who snuck backstage after a show.

Garfinkel wrote to the court that Doe 2 used a “temporary ‘burner’ email account” to open the social media profiles, but that IP address information associated with the accounts traced to two companies headquartered in Panama. He said his clients asked him to pursue the companies – PacketHub S.A. and NordVPN – to get them to cough up information associated with the creation of Doe 2’s accounts. He cautioned the task was challenging.

“There’s a reason why these companies go to Panama,” Garfinkel told the court Wednesday. “Their compliance is spotty. And we’ve tried a couple different ways of getting there, including direct contact with the entities, and they’re going to make us jump every hurdle.” He said the U.S. State Department told him it could take up to a year to use official channels to get the companies to comply with court orders.

The judge set a follow-up hearing for Nov. 13.

In the posts at the center of the lawsuit, Doe 2 alleged that Barakat fed her alcohol and drugs and engaged in sexual contact with her after shows at multiple venues and over a period of several years. Doe 2 further claimed that at least one other member of All Time Low knew about the alleged abuse. In their lawsuit, the band members said the posts from Doe 2’s handle @ATLstatement were “defamatory” and “completely false.” They said “no one matching her description toured with the band.”

In a prior ruling, Judge Murphy said Barakat and the band needed to identify Doe 2 to proceed with their case. He said that while the right to publish anonymously is protected by the First Amendment, freedom of speech does not extend to defamation. “Here, the complaint states a valid claim because it sets forth the exact statements alleged to be defamatory, alleges that they are false, and alleges that defendants made the statements with actual malice,” Judge Murphy wrote.

All four founding members of All Time Low are listed as plaintiffs, including singer and guitarist Alex Gaskarth, bass player Zack Merrick, and drummer Rian Dawson. Beyond Doe 2, the lawsuit alleges two other individuals claimed in anonymous social media posts that one or more group members committed or were complicit in the grooming and sexual abuse of fans, including minors.

The Maryland-bred quartet issued an all-caps statement in October 2021 calling the online claims “absolutely and unequivocally false.” “We are investigating further the source of these false accusations and will be seeking legal recourse as we take these allegations very seriously. With that in mind, we want to say again, we stand with victims and always wish to amplify the voices and stories of those who have suffered abuse and trauma. But we cannot and will not fuel or amplify lies that only cloud and distort the true stories of those who need to be heard and represented,” the statement from All Time Low read.

The allegations against the band started to go viral in 2021 after Doe 1, a TikTok user, posted a cryptic message under the name @mini.grew that claimed “a famous pop punk band” offered her beer on a tour bus and asked for her bra “for their nasty collection” when she was 13. The post didn’t explicitly name the band but “gave easily solved clues” that led to a consensus the group was All Time Low, the band’s lawsuit said.

According to the complaint, a Twitter user named @spidahkii quickly stepped forward to refute Doe 1’s allegations. She claimed to have attended the concert with Doe 1, shared a photo purportedly showing them at the event and said Doe 1’s claims “never happened.” The lawsuit claimed Doe 1 then admitted she posted her statements “to be petty towards a peer” and made her video private.

A couple weeks later, @ATLstatement posted the statements attributed to Doe 2. Later that same month, another Twitter user with the handle @dietsodasage posted a tweet claiming to have counted 97 allegations against the band. “If 97 people aren’t enough then I don’t know what to tell you,” the user, identified as Doe 3, wrote. The Twitter account has since been deactivated, but the lawsuit included a screen grab of a post attributed to @dietsodasage that reads, “I feel kind of weird about how people took my tweet about the atl situation :/ I didn’t mean for things to go like that so I’m probably going to stay priv for a few days.”

“Without any evidence whatsoever, Doe 3 egregiously and falsely claimed that ‘97 allegations’ had been made against the band, an accusation that spread like wildfire on the Internet,” the band’s lawsuit claimed.

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David M. Ring, a plaintiff’s attorney who represents survivors in high-profile cases of sexual assault, previously told Rolling Stone that libel lawsuits like the one filed by All Time Low amount to “bold power plays” and open up a two-way street of legal scrutiny.

“This is not something that any individual would walk into lightly. I guarantee they have been advised that by bringing a lawsuit, they’re opening themselves up to discovery that would include all of the allegations that were made online,” Ring said. “By bringing a lawsuit, it appears they’re entering willingly, knowing there’s going to be investigations into their background, and they don’t care. Apparently, they’re not afraid.”

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