Two online dating services are scrambling to explain how a dead soldier’s picture appeared in advertising on their websites.
Lt. Peter Burks’ parents are suing Plenty of Fish and True.com after a family friend saw a photo of Burks next to the phrase “military men searching for love” in December.
“To trade on the courage of young men and women that volunteer to serve our country and wear that uniform, and for somebody to take advantage of that and use that for commercial gain – it doesn't get any lower than that,” Alan Burks told NBC 5 in Dallas.
Both sites disavowed knowledge of the picture, said it has been removed, and blamed third-party advertisers for the mistake.
Dallas-based True.com spokesman Ruben Buell told The Associated Press the discovery troubled everyone at his company.
“We will be trying to figure out who created this ad and how it got there — not just how they pulled us into it, but who it was that did that so the family can have some peace in the matter,” he told the AP.
Vancouver-based Plenty of Fish said it has hundreds of third-party advertisers, and doesn’t track the content of those ads, said Paul Bloudoff, the Plenty of Fish legal affairs manager.
“Lt. Burks’ image was never used by POF.com in any way, shape or form,” he wrote in an email to Postmedia. "A third-party advertiser, with no affiliation to PlentyOfFish, ran an ad promoting another dating site using Lt. Burks' picture, and one of the places this advertiser ran this ad happened to be our site."
Burks said the photo used – of his son in uniform – was taken days before he died five years ago in Iraq.
The lawsuit asks for punitive damages, and Burks said he would donate proceeds to military charities. He said the incident has made the family relive the pain of their son's death.
Burks also said his son was engaged at the time of his death.
“For me, this is making sure that the honor and legacy of Peter is protected,” Burks told the AP. “But also it concerns me that they would use the likeness of a live soldier or someone else.”
Burks said he didn’t know how anyone acquired the image, although it appears on Unsungherofund.org, a website that sends supplies to soldiers overseas.
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