TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Teens' Families Sue MySpace

Teens' Families Sue MySpace

Reuters News Wire (
Thu, 18 Jan 2007 23:42:27 -0600

The families of five teenaged girls who were sexually assaulted by
predators they met on MySpace, the popular Internet social network,
have sued owner News Corp. for negligence and fraud, lawyers for the
families said.

The families from New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina
filed suits in state Superior Court in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The
girls, ages 14 and 15, were lured to meetings with older MySpace
members and sexually assaulted, according to the lawyers, and they
are reviewing the possibility of a class-action lawsuit, naming all
the victims of MySpace's negligence.

One 15-year-old girl was drugged and assaulted in 2006 by an older
MySpace user, the lawyers said. The user pleaded guilty to sexual
assault and is serving a 10-year sentence, they said.

Last year, the parents of a 14-year-old girl in Austin, Texas, sued
MySpace for $30 million after she was sexually assaulted by a
19-year-old man she met on the Web site.

"In our view, MySpace waited entirely too long to attempt to institute
meaningful security measures that effectively increase the safety of
their underage users," Jason Itkin, an attorney at Arnold & Itkin LLP,
one of the firms representing the families, said in a statement.

Last April, MySpace hired Hemanshu Nigam, a former prosecutor in the
Internet child exploitation unit for the U.S. Justice Department, as
chief security officer. The site has also instituted new procedures to
protect users.

The minimum age to register on MySpace is 14. Last year, the service
made it impossible for members 18 or older to contact 14- to
15-year-old members unless they know the younger person's e-mail
address beforehand. The company also is in the process of offering
new parental notification software.

Nigam said MySpace takes proactive measures to protect its members and
offers tools to users to encourage a safer online experience.

"Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility," Nigam said
in a statement. "We encourage everyone to apply common sense offline
safety lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family
dialogue about smart web practices."

Critics of the service have said the measures were too little too late.

"Blaming the families of abuse victims who were solicited online, as
some have done, is a cynical excuse that ignores the fact that social
networking sites can lead to heinous abuse by Internet predators,"
said Adam Loewy, an attorney at Barry & Loewy LLP, which is also
representing the families.

The firm represented the family of the 14-year-old Austin girl in
their suit last year.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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