June 19th, 2006

MySpace Sued For Failing to Protect Children from Sexual Predators

by

Remember MySpace the ticking time bomb? Well, it’s starting to tick faster — now they’re being sued for failing to protect children (thanks to Jeff for the tip):

A 14-year-old Travis County girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a Buda man she met on MySpace.com sued the popular social networking site Monday for $30 million, claiming that it fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators.

The lawsuit claims that the Web site does not require users to verify their age and calls the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 “utterly ineffective.”

“MySpace is more concerned about making money than protecting children online,” said Adam Loewy, who is representing the girl and her mother in the lawsuit against MySpace, parent company News Corp. and Pete Solis, the 19-year-old accused of sexually assaulting the girl.

Loewy said the lawsuit is the first of its kind in the nation against MySpace.

Solis contacted the girl through her MySpace Web site in April, telling her that he was a high school senior who played on the football team, according to the lawsuit.

In May, after a series of e-mails and phone calls, he picked her up at school, took her out to eat and to a movie, then drove her to an apartment complex parking lot in South Austin, where he sexually assaulted her, police said. He was arrested May 19.

The lawsuit includes news reports of other assault cases in which girls were contacted through MySpace. They include a 22-year-old Wisconsin man charged with six counts of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and a 27-year-old Connecticut man accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

Call it a frivolous lawsuit by a greedy, publicity-hungry lawyer. Call it the over-reaction of a distraught parent in search of someone to blame. Call it a shameless publicity stunt. Call it whatever you like.

But this kind of bad of PR is going to make advertisers run for the hills and make MySpace users think about checking out the proliferation of alternative social network sites popping up all over the place.

Comments (16 Responses so far)

  1. MySpace gets sued (And you know it’s in Texas!) By Mike OrrenVia Publishing 2.0, a Travis County family is suing MySpace for $30 million, alleging that the site is liable for a sexual assault on a fourteen year-old girl by a 19 year-old she met on the site. My reaction? My, their attorney is young

  2. преступления :) Или же их можно обвинить в невозможности защитеть малолетних юзеров. Увидел сегодня новость о новом иске против MySpace (viaPublishing 2.0): От лица 14 летней девочки из графства Travis, изнасилованнной человеком, с которым она познакомилась на MySpace, подала в суд на популярную

  3. Publishing 2.0 » MySpace Sued For Failing to Protect Children from Sexual Predators

  4. has “absolutely no meaningful protections or security measures to protect underage users.” No word on whether the girl who tricked her parents into getting her a passport so she could fly to Jordan to meet a lover will join the lawsuit.But seriously. Scott Karp and Mike Masnick have more perspective on their sites. They both say this kind of bad publicity is going to drive advertisers away from MySpace. Scott made an excellent point about MySpace and advertisers a few posts ago: Roping off advertisers into

  5. Publishing 2.0 » MySpace Sued For Failing to Protect Children from Sexual Predators

  6. what a freaking joke! In MySpace’s Terms of Use, it states clearly that by accepting service (i.e. becoming a MySpace member), you agree that any activities conducted outside of MySpace is not their responsibility.

    I WANT TO KNOW HOW THIS LAWYER CAN EVEN THINK ABOUT WINNING THIS CASE!

    It’s like going to a bar, meet a guy who got into the bar with a fake ID, agree to go back to his place, then sue the bar because he raped you that night. HOW IS IT THE ESTABLISHMENT’S FAULT?

    Too bad that the lawyers are the only ones making money from this.

  7. SueMe (or comment spammer, or MySpace representative or whoever you anonymously are):

    This doesn’t provide any legal justification for the suit, but to use your bar analogy, don’t you think there would be some community outrage if a bar routinely let in 14-year-old girls with fake IDs to socialize with adult men?

  8. Let’s use an old-tech example. If a man becomes pen-pals with a 14 year old girl, and when she agrees to meet him he hurts her, should her parents sue the post office for not checking IDs on everyone mailing letters?

    MySpace or any other internet service does not offer a guarantee of its user’s honesty. The expectation that it should is absurd, though I’ll agree that it’s also widespread. People seem to demand annonymity on the internet at the same time that they want that annonymity taken away for “bad people.” The problem is deciding who gets to decide who the bad people are.

    I’m a parent, and I would never let my children meet a stranger they met on the internet without my supervision, no matter who they think that stranger is.

  9. I should add to that, I recognize that the post isn’t commenting on whether it’s right or wrong to sue, but that it is simple reality that this kind of lawsuit was inevitable.

    The kids growing up now largely understand that the internet is not to be trusted, and that no one is necessarily who they seem. It may take a few decades for Generation Y to become parents of teens before we’ll see this issue go away, as they won’t be operating under the false assumption today’s parent have that there is someone at a desk somewhere checking everything on the internet.

    Until then, we’re going to swing wildly between annonymity and the illusion of security.

  10. OK, I’m a mother, and my almost teenage daughter does use the internet, however I know all of the sites she goes to, I supervise her use, and she does not have profiles on any site that are not linked to mine. That makes it so that if anyone does talk to her, not only do I know who they are, but I can look at every message they ever sent her. On that note, if the parents of these children would take the time to educate their children on safe online practices, they wouldn’t have to worry about what happens to them. The other thought is, I had a 13 year old child send me a message one day to add me as a myspace friend. She was from california, and I am from Pennsylvania. Obvously, she assumed that since I was a woman from the other side of the country, this would be safe. When I told her that wasn’t a safe thing to do online, she acted like I was an idiot. So, again I ask, where are the parents, why don’t they monitor their 1 child instead of saying, I gave birth to them, I bought them a computer, now it’s the site moderators who should monitor not only my child, but the other 8 million of them who have signed up.

  11. I really appreciate the last post here from the parent. You’ve hit the nail on the head here. Those parents are to blame, not myspace, or anyother website out there like it. They just don’t want to admit that they failed, and the daughter can’t accept the fact that she screwed up.

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  13. The story has taken another odd turn. KLBJ-AM (590) in Austin is reporting that the accused man in this case may also want to sue MySpace. Details are few, but the radio station reports that “Solis also says he wouldn’t be in this trouble if it hadn’t been for the social networking website and his lawyer, Adam Reposa agrees.”

  14. I always get a bit leery when I see people coming out to absolve MySpace of any and all blame and then go right at the parents. It seems that many – especially those in the blogosphere conversations rush to defend any thing that relates to Web 2.0. And I’m not saying this to blame MySpace.

    The whole social media thing is still very new. Bad things can happen. MySpace now affords a new opportunity for bad things to happen. When I hear people automatically blaming the parents, I wonder how many of them 1) have driven even slightly buzzed or knowingly got in a care that has a driver in that condition, 2) tried and illegal drug, or 3) had unprotected sex outside of a relationship. Or, if they have kids, can assure the world with certainty that their kids would never do any of the above.

    I’m not saying this to absolve parents…I’m saying that with a medium such as MySpace, somewhat rebeliuos teens, and scum like this guy Solis who will lie about their age, things are going to happen. Sometimes it will happen to kids with good involved parents.

    By the way, I’m a single parent myself. And I’ve got a profile on MySpace.

  15. What the hell is this, its the stupidest crap I’ve ever heard of. Don’t parents think they have to watch their kids anymore they expect the internet to raise their children for them. its not myspace problem that some 13 year old slut wanted to meet some guy.

  16. Hey ya all. A few sentence would sum up all the negative and positive comments. Here goes… we’ve gone without myspace.com for centuries, I’m sure this world would not come to an end if the site gets shut down. Haven’t we as parents have enough worries of our children? Why add another burden for the parents. I believe the site is inviting predators and is meaningless. If you need informations, why not go to google.com. In the past, you don’t hear so much child molesters as you do now since myspace.com started. Come on guys, there are more important things you can do, like spending more time with your families and friends than wasting time on a meaningless site that accomplishes nothing!!!!

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