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MySpace not responsible for predators

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

There is no way to stop a determined predator. There is no way to stop a determined victim.

On June 19, a 14-year-old girl and her mother filed a lawsuit against MySpace. The suit claims that MySpace's lack of age verification allowed a 19-year-old man, Pete Solis, to lie about his age and contact the girl. Solis convinced the 14-year-old to meet him outside of cyberspace, where he took her to dinner and a movie and then allegedly raped her.

The family's lawyer, Adam Loewy, said the family is seeking $30 million worth of damages, citing MySpace's security features as "utterly ineffective." He also dropped this bombshell: "MySpace is more concerned with making money than protecting children online." Get out of town, Mr. Loewy. MySpace is a business, and one that has never advertised itself as an online baby-sitting service. Making money is its reason for existence.

If the rape allegations are true, then this is a tragedy. Nearly all actions taken by predators are tragedies, but this lawsuit is frivolous, and potentially damaging to the nature of the Internet.

This kind of thing happens cyclically. Video games, music and television have all been blamed for the actions of a few naive or demented people. Corporations and organizations are demonized, lawsuits are fired, most are thrown out and the parents of the offender or victim sneak off the radar. That's what is happening here. Any police officer will tell you that nearly all youth crimes happen because some moron forgot to be a parent.

This girl's mother failed here several times. She didn't convince her daughter of the dangers of cyberspace; she didn't monitor her Internet usage well enough, she let her 14-year-old daughter physically meet a 19-year-old man, and she's now sending the wrong message by deflecting the responsibility onto a Web site that has no control over sociopaths.

The girl, as traumatic as her experience was, should be held responsible, too. At 14 years of age, she's capable of calculating risk and other higher brain functions. She ignored the danger of dealing with someone she didn't know. She gave away personal information and she consented to physically meet Solis. She could've prevented being a victim, but she was determined to ignore all the apparent risks, and she paid for it.

There are more than 80 million users on MySpace. So far, only three cases of molestation have hit the courts. They are anomalies, and they are impossible to extinguish completely. Teenage socialization is oftentimes chaotic, and predators are unbalanced equations.

Fortunately, MySpace has foreseen this, and has attempted to protect itself. When creating an account, users must sign a waiver that states, "MySpace.com is not responsible for the conduct, whether online or offline, of any user of the MySpace Services." The 14-year-old signed this agreement, and thus signed away her protection under naiveté. This should be enough to get the suit thrown out, but it's big trouble for the Internet if it isn't.

The Internet is a gigantic medium for everything. If this lawsuit goes through, then any Web site that deals with any sort of exchange, be it monetary, information or services, is at risk for lawsuit. If someone does something stupid while on the Internet, then that person can sue the Net.

There are tons of predators out there, and there are tons of waiting victims. It's unknown as of now which ones are more dangerous.

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