MySpace Lawsuits Called Losers - InformationWeek

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1/19/2007
07:51 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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MySpace Lawsuits Called Losers

Four families are suing MySpace for failing to prevent adults from contacting and subsequently sexually assaulting their daughters. The lawsuits charge MySpace and parent company News Corp. with negligence, gross negligence, fraud, fraud by nondisclosure, and negligent misrepresentation. As InformationWeek's Antone Gonsalves reports, the assaults occurred in late 2005 and early 2006. Auth

Four families are suing MySpace for failing to prevent adults from contacting and subsequently sexually assaulting their daughters.

The lawsuits charge MySpace and parent company News Corp. with negligence, gross negligence, fraud, fraud by nondisclosure, and negligent misrepresentation.

As InformationWeek's Antone Gonsalves reports, the assaults occurred in late 2005 and early 2006. Authorities arrested six men in connection with the attacks. Two pleaded guilty and others are awaiting trial.

In a post about the lawsuits on the Concurring Opinions blog, law professor Eric Goldman says, "These lawsuits are obvious losers for two independent reasons."First, Goldman says, it's a stretch under the legal definition of causation to assert that MySpace contributed to a crime that didn't occur on its premises.

Second, he said, the law "routinely insulate[s] Web sites for liability for torts committed outside their network." Thus, he points out, AOL was not held liable for child porn generated elsewhere and distributed through its network.

Why bother with the lawsuit, then? Goldman speculates, "Given the obviously futile nature of this lawsuit, this lawsuit may be more about publicity than about seeking justice."

As Goldman points out, the risk of high-profile lawsuits like this is that they may encourage ill-conceived, knee-jerk legislation. The problem is even the most extreme restrictions seem reasonable if the purpose is "protecting kids." How many politicians, for example, would have the courage to oppose something like "The Boil Pedophiles Alive Act of 2007"? Not many, I suspect.

No doubt MySpace could do more to keep predators away. There's always another layer of security that can be added, but the addition of security measures tends to decrease usability. A truly impenetrable MySpace would be a site no one used.

If the families of the victims want their daughters to be better protected online, they should take a more active role in parenting. The Internet, like a busy street, is not a place children should roam without supervision.

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