A Honolulu maternity photographer and birth helper is suing a New York business and dozens of people around the world, saying they defamed him by participating in social media activity that alleged he was luring pregnant women into lactation pornography.

Danny Gallagher says his reputation, relationships and mental, physical and financial well-being have suffered as a result of what he calls “lies” people have spread, mostly in birthing and mothers’ groups on Facebook.

The case was filed last year in federal court in Hawaii. But it has continued to generate buzz as Gallagher adds more and more defendants to the case as accusations spread through Facebook groups. It was last updated about a month ago.

The social media posts discuss people’s concerns that Gallagher, who previously operated the Facebook page “Danny the Doula,” has been using his photography business to encourage pregnant women to get involved in selling amateur pornography. He vehemently denies this in his lawsuit.

The “Danny the Doula” Facebook page is no longer active but is included in court exhibits.

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Gallagher’s attorney, Joe Utzurrum, said in an email that he could not comment on the case.

The long list of defendants in the Hawaii lawsuit includes the MaternityWise Institute, an international organization certifying doulas, who provide guidance and support to a woman giving birth. Many dictionaries define doulas as women experienced in childbirth, but male doulas like Gallagher also exist.

The case names more than 30 defendants from 12 states, including Alaska and Iowa, and two foreign countries — Canada and Australia. They are accused of either posting, commenting on, sharing or liking posts that contained allegations against Gallagher or allegedly attacked his character.

Gallagher also has another active lawsuit in Colorado against two women.

“Basically, by being sued, we’ve been shut up,” said Anne Croudace, one of the defendants and head of MaternityWise. She and others named in the case were people in the birthing community who wanted to warn and protect other women, based on either their own experiences with Gallagher or because of what they learned by talking to others.

Croudace said she first met Gallagher when he attended one of her organization’s trainings in Honolulu in the spring of 2018. He attended the workshop for free — it normally costs $1,200 — in exchange for providing some photography and video services. Croudace said he never fully delivered on that.

After returning to the mainland, Croudace said she began hearing from people who alleged that Gallagher had engaged in predatory behavior, such as propositioning women to engage in pornography. Some of them have sent her screenshots and emails of their exchanges with the photographer.

Croudace said she also learned that Gallagher was saying he was certified by MaternityWise. “He was not,” she said. “Not in any form at all.”

In response, MaternityWise issued a memo in June 2018 on its website, saying it had learned of unethical behavior involving false representation of certification, and luring and deceiving pregnant women into pornography for sexual gratification and financial gain.

The memo did not mention Gallagher by name, and Croudace said an attorney reviewed it before it was published. The memo itself encouraged its members not to disseminate accusations without evidence to avoid slandering anyone.

Gallagher filed the lawsuits after that memo was published and began being circulated on social media.

“I was shocked, and righteously indignant,” Croudace said. It seemed to her that he was using the court system to silence and mistreat women.

In the lawsuit, Gallagher accuses the defendants of a number of things, ranging from directly posting warnings about him and his alleged predatory behavior to simply sharing someone else’s post or pressing the “like” button on Facebook, which he said in court documents is an act of endorsement.

The defamation complaint has been amended numerous times to include more people each time. The latest iteration is the fourth amended complaint, which was filed May 22.

Kevin Yolken is an attorney representing some of the defendants.

“He’s been a little bit reckless, I would say, about who he’s chosen to sue and how he’s pursued that,” Yolken said.

Yolken said his team has collected evidence showing that what they believe Gallagher has been doing is true, including screenshots, messages, emails and photos.

“Despite all that, he’s choosing to go forward and cause these women to incur the expense of putting on a defense,” Yolken said.

Croudace said most of the defendants are mothers working in the birthing community, earning limited income. They are turning to crowdfunding measures to cover the legal expenses.

“None of us have 30 grand sitting around,” she said.

In the lawsuit, Gallagher said he was offering his expertise in media promotion to women who were looking to make some extra income.

He’s asking the court for a judgment of $5 million in damages from each defendant. With 33 defendants as it currently stands, that amounts to $165 million. Croudace would be on the hook twice, as an individual and as the head of MaternityWise.

“Basically, by being sued, we’ve been shut up.” — Anne Croudace of MaternityWise.

Gallagher bases his request for a big-dollar figure on the potential that the alleged defamatory statements could have gone “viral.”

But that’s not a convincing argument for juries, said Nicholas Carroll, a California expert and author who writes about defamation issues.

Carroll has worked on numerous articles on defamation, especially as it relates to social media, and reviewed the case at Civil Beat’s request.

“This is a pretty wild case,” he said. It appears that the plaintiff is “shooting in every direction.”

Carroll said he has seen lawsuits based on social media activity before, but also that he has not observed any clear legal resolutions or “great successes” by plaintiffs. The prospect of Gallagher winning hundreds of millions in damages is unlikely, he said.

The defendants’ attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss Gallagher’s fourth amended complaint. A hearing on the motion is set to take place July 19.

Read the lawsuit here:

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