June 19th, 2006
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.