January 18, 2007 7:38 AM PST

MySpace.com, News Corp. sued in assault cases

MySpace.com and News Corp. are being sued by the parents of girls who were allegedly solicited and sexually assaulted by adult users of MySpace.

The families, who come from New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, each filed separate suits in California state court, the law firms representing the families announced Thursday.

Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer at the popular social-networking site based in Santa Monica, Calif., released a statement Thursday in response to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"MySpace serves as an industry leader on Internet safety and we take proactive measures to protect our members," the statement said. "We provide users with a range of tools to enable a safer online experience. Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone to apply common-sense offline safety lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family dialogue about smart Web practices."

In the past, MySpace has assisted law enforcement in tracking and catching fugitives with MySpace profiles. The company has also taken steps to protect minors.

The civil suits against MySpace and parent company News Corp., which were filed on Wednesday, allege negligence, recklessness, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation on the part of the companies, according to the law firms.

Criminal charges have been filed against all the accused adult MySpace users, and/or their accomplices in some cases, in the families' home states. Some of the accused have been convicted and are serving time in prison. The adult accused in the Texas case is currently serving a 10-year sentence there; the adult accused in the New York case is awaiting trial on felony sexual assault and felony rape charges in New York. His adult male accomplice has already pleaded guilty.

The adult accused in the Pennsylvania case is awaiting trial on 12 charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

The South Carolina family has two daughters, age 14 and 15, who were allegedly lured, intoxicated, drugged and then sexually assaulted. The two accused adults have been arrested and await criminal prosecution.

MySpace announced Wednesday that it will launch Zephyr, software for parents to monitor their children's interaction on MySpace. The software was met with criticism, however, as it is limited in access and scope.

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33 comments

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Accountability
When is it time for the parents to step up and admit they had no idea their little girls were flirting with and being seduced by predators?

When is it time for the parents to admit that they don't keep an eye on their children?

When is it time for the parents to admit that MySpace is not a babysitter?

Yes, predators exist. It is a sad fact of reality. But at some point, the children have to be told that what they are doing is dangerous. Their parents have to sit down with them and say "Hey, look: I know you like going online and talking with people, but what you are doing carries a very serious risk. I do not want you to end up like any of these other girls. Please, please, please do not meet anyone you do not know from school or the neighborhood."

The parents of the 21st Century must become interactive, not just with software but with their own children. The internet is not a babysitter.
Posted by koster_jay (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Parents take accountability?
What? You mean parents should watch what their children do on line? Next you'll want them to learn manners, dress decently, and tell the truth about where they were going when this happened. I feel for these kids and their parents, but if someone at home cared in the first place, this would have never happened. Amen!
Posted by OMGno (1 comment )
Link Flag
Paying Attention
When will people finally stop wanting to blame things on someone else for their own shortcomings? It is alwful what these girls went through but what were the parents doing while these kids spent all this time on line to begin with. Children dont need their own computers in their rooms out of sight of mom and dad. Ivolvement in your childrens lives would help keep them from looking somewhere else for someone to pay attention to them
Posted by shively45660 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Nanny State expands
<Rant>
I've seen some good comments about the state of parenting today and I've seen some comments supporting the continuance of the nanny state. Personally, I feel that the problem lies more with the parents than with myspace or any other IM/social network/chat site. This happened all the time between 1997 and 2003 over IM using MSN or Yahoo or ICQ or AIM and you never saw any of those companies being sued. Now that kids have a central location to congregate and predators have that same site to troll for victims, it becomes a news focus. Why?

If parents would take more interest in parenting and what actually goes on when their children get online or leave the house, do you really think this would have happened? Yes, I realize kids lie. So is that the fault of myspace too? Perhaps we should just get rid of the internet and telephones and television completely. That way the predators won't have any access into homes without knocking on doors. Oh and get rid of cars and planes, because those allow these predators to travel to distant places to search for victims. Or we can just sit back and let the government raise our children for us. They take all the responsibility but we pay all the bills. Sound fair? Because that's slowly what's happening.

Someone mentioned moving to an eastern bloc country. Why bother when we're heading that way now. People don't make choices. Advertising and companies make the choices for them. People don't choose to smoke. The tobacco companies hand them the cigarettes and cigars and chewing tobacco and force them to use the products. People don't choose to own guns and kill others. The gun manufacturers give them the guns and then tell them to kill or else.

Where does it all end?

I'm waiting for Ford or GM to be sued next because someone's child was killed by a drunk driver. And, of course, it isn't the fault of the drunk driver. He wouldn't have been driving at all if Ford or whoever hadn't sold him the car.
</Rant>
Posted by PCTechG (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No way they will win
Take care of your children myspace isn't a daycare
Posted by kyle172 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give me a break
The parents, desperately trying to shift the focus off their own inadequacies, are trying to go after the scapegoat. Myspace is as safe as you make it. Myspace didn't force their children to add predators to their friends list...they did it all by themselves. Myspace even has the option of setting your profile to be completely invisible to your non-friends!

There are predators on there, but they're also in malls, in the park, and walking down the street.
Posted by beautifulheroes (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Both Sides are to Blame
Allowing unmoderated interaction between teens and adults has always been a harbinger of trouble -- even before the age of the Internet. This is not to say that MySpace is evil; nor is it to say that parents are negligent. It just happens to be a "social hazard" of the society we live in, and both sides of the coin need to be aware of this.

Why do we suppose that dance clubs, for example, have separate nights/venues for teen crowds and crowds that are 18+ -- even though both may just be juice bars (no alcoholic beverages served)?
Posted by phantomsoul (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What next?
Ok, so who next to sue? The local mall because they do not have enough guards to protect the 12-15 year olds that are left there WITHOUT parents? How about the local school they attend because there are not enough teachers to watch EVERY kid? This is getting to be stupid.

Actually, I blame the lawyers who are out for a quick buck. If they would just step up to the parents and say "Look, they met on the net, there is not much that the owner of the website they met on can do."

And to those that say it is Myspace's fault, go get a clue. You idiots, yes I said that, IDIOTS, need to learn more about what your child is doing. If you feel you can not trust them, install a keystroke logger on the pc they use and find out what they are doing. I myself have raised my step son from age 13 to his present age of 18. I got to learn how to be a parent at the teenage years. Yes, my son has his own pc. Yes, its in his room. I told him before what to watch out for, who to trust, etc.
Posted by tanis143 (122 comments )
Reply Link Flag
clue here
Agreed. You can of course lock you kids up, no TV, no computers. We all got along well that way in the 1970s. But it's 2007. There are more criminal nuts loose - and many even want to decriminalize their activities - remember NAMBLA. But kids need to live in the real world. You cant hover over their computers all day. They need to be taught about all of the bad people out their - they need to know how to protect themselves from them. If they are old enough to use a computer then they would be old enough to learn these facts.

But in teh end, MySpace did not make teh kids leave their homes and go and meet these creeps. The kids did that all by themsleves. Theor parents allowed them to. SAd, but not MySpace's fault.
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
Parents Today
It's not Myspace's job to play the parent for neglected children. The parents should be put in jail for endangering their own children. What parent in their right mind would allow their young teenage child to join a site that's designed to help adults network with eachother?

These parents are the same ones who blame the manufacturers of guns for their kid shooting up a school.

Would they sue Wal-Mart if they left their kid unattended and their child was abducted. No, they would be up a creek with no paddles. Why should it be any different for myspace, when it's the same circumstance.

The sad part is that they will probably get money out of this.
Posted by mitchelrl (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
You have it completely backwards
Parents today are more involved with their children then ever before. In my area we have children taking swimming lessons at 6 months, toddlers in parent-participation pre-schools and Montessori pre-schools, and children starting sports and music programs from the time they can walk. The biggest concern I've heard lately is that kids don't have any free time. I don't know where you get your misguided opinion that parents today commonly neglect their children, but I suggest that you get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off.
Posted by gw188397 (45 comments )
Link Flag
Some things being overlooked
While I do understand the arguments being made here, I have to point out that too many are predicated on the idea that kids talk to their parents and that parents are privy to every little detail in their childrens lives.
It's obvious to me that many of you have forgotten what it was like to be a teen.

1) Teens -do not- like telling their parents every little detail of their lives.
2) try telling a teen girl something she is doing is dangerous and you'll get the "eyeroll" and the response of "whatever" or something else equally as inane.
3) No matter how hard a parent tries to prevent their child from doing something, a teenager/kid -will- find away to do it, the best you can hope for in some cases is to be around to help mitigate any potential damage.
4) It is unreasonable to expect a kid to always know when they are being preyed upon. Some of the most insidious predators will portay themselves as kids of a like or similar age to their current target, convincingly in many cases.
5) Of course Myspace isn't a babysitter, and to allege that a parent is treating it as such is assinine if not out right obtuse. But the facts are that parent want to trust their kids so they allow them to use myspace. But to put the onus of responsibility completely on Parents is ridiculous, Parents cannot watch their children 24 hours a day and to expect it is out of the question.
6) The larger problem is that it is highly difficult for sites like Myspace to filter users, especially when a girl who is obviously (from her picture) 15, displays her age as 99.

Should things be made difficult for the online predators to encounter children ? yes, but how does a company or site admin/developer go about that ?
It's ridiculous that myspace is being sued for something they have no control over. The owners and operators of Myspace did not encourage these scumbags and they have tried to help shut these "people" down.
The sad fact is, if these molesters and pedophiles weren't trolling on myspace they'd be trolling elsewhere, and parents can only do so much to protect their child.
Posted by ShadowGryphon (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You forgot to add ...
The teen (or pre-teen) girl who is rolling her eyes nad dismissing you with "whatever" will be doing so in low-slung hip huggers and a halter top, showing off her scanty thong underwear and black bra straps ... which she surmises that only her boyfriend can see, and all other males are unable to see. Her boyfriend will be over 21, because all the boys her age are "immature".

But of course, she is the victim if anything happens to her while she is out on the prowl.

How about teen girls taking a little responsibility for thier hyper-sexualized dress and attitude for a change?

Just my 2¢ worth.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
Question
If I operate a mall (the physical version of MySpace), hire several security guards (site moderators), install security cameras (traffic logging) and then a child visting my mall without parent supervision gets propositioned and even possibly abducted, is it my fault?

In the real world, not usually, but online it seems to be the norm.

Just like at the mall or store, many parents just let their children run loose on the web with no monitoring. The don't even install the most basic software to protect their chidren, they don't periodically review what their children are doing online and the results can be disastrous.

My two daughters have been online since they were 6 and 4 (1998), but only with repeated discussions about the pros and cons of the web and only from computers that are protected properly with filtering and logging software. The result is no serious issues. They both have MySpace pages, but both are private and periodically reviewed by both their mother and I.

Does this mean they are completely protected?
Absolutely not. The web is a perfect mirror of the real world with all of its beauty and danger, and all kids will push boundaries and occasionally stumble and scuff a knee. The key is to make sure you are there to take care of them...

...and most importantly, realize that online just like in the real world, they are your children and the buck stops with you.
Posted by adlyb1 (123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shocking
Am I the only one who finds this lawsuit shocking? True, the story is a bit vague and I personally don't have all of the details that lead up to each of the incidents. However, I am a firm believer that the responsibility for a child's actions lies foremost in the hands of the parents. I'm curious to know what steps each of these families took in order to protect their children from both face-to-face predatory situations and online trickery that lead to their teenage children from falling for what I would think by now would have become almost a cliché. How many episodes of ?To Catch a Predator? does Dateline have to do <i>this</i> year, how many common sense warnings need to be blurted over the local news, before parents get the pictures. In defense of Myspace, I have written <A HREF="#">
An Open Letter to the Parents Suing Myspace</A> on my blog that I hope you?ll read.
Posted by melly_b (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Myspace Should Sue Parents
Myspace needs to sue the parents back for frivilous lawsuits and negligence. Computers are not toys and the internet is not a playground. The parent buys the computer and pay the internet provider and thinks, wow what a wonderful babysitter. Next we hear another teenager has been sexually assaulted. Well all that means most of the time is consentual sex with someone above the age of consent laws. What's going on? Parents didn't teach their kids something? These teenagers know exactly what they are doing. They prepare their websites with the most indecent, sexually provacative pictures and language, and then label themselves 18. Think parents never taught them how old they were? Think again. These young girls are looking for older guys who have cars and money. So then they catch some naive 18+ year old boy, flirt, tease, give out numbers and get numbers, and next thing, go off to meet them and have consentual sex. At some point he realises she lied about her age but often, it is too late, he sucked into the teenyboppers game. Parents then wake up from their stupors, call the police, the boy is labeled an internet predator and sex pervert, his life gets ruined, everyone says oh poor little girls, and the parents sue myspace. The answer is to start taking these girls to juvenile and having the parents investigated for negligence. That is all that is going on and it is the correct solution to the real problem.
Posted by jane150 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Law suit against MySpace abuse of our legal system
STOP BLAMING MYSPACE
Body: From: Brian &#38; Lacey
Date: Apr 16, 2007 10:19 AM


Anybody happen to catch Nightline last night on ABC? In case you didn't, one of the hot topics discussed was MySpace. It is no secret to anyone who reads the newspaper or watches the 6 o'clock news that MySpace has been in the limelight because of "sexual predators" trying to "abduct and corrupt" the youth of the world. To this I say bull ****! I see dozens of profiles a day showing 14 year old girls dressed like *****, wearing four inches of make up and 32 layers of eyeliner, displaying their age as 18 years old and profile lines stating "Oh, I'm So Sexy" or "Hey There, Wanna Check Up On It?" Come on! The youth of today's world are already corrupt enough due to the undying need to be "older" than they really are. I seriously doubt there are tons of people on MySpace stalking "innocent young girls" who just happen to have tramped up profiles and ages 4 years greater than their own.

On Nightline, there was a story of a 12 year old girl who was a drug-addict and attributed it all to MySpace. She claims that Myspace allowed her to easily find drug dealers in her area, as well as older men to have sex with her. Now, at the age of 14, she has been checked into a drug-rehabilitation clinic and has been away from her family for 5 months. Her parents would rather place the blame squarely on the shoulders of MySpace instead of their daughter, who even admitted that at the age of 12, had already tried weed, crack, X, and had slept with numerous guys older than herself...but of course, it wasn't her fault, it was all because of MySpace.

Once again, COME ON! When are parents and children going to stop passing the blame and grow up enough to take responsibility for their actions and the actions of their children.. Parents: monitor your children online, take some responsibility for YOUR children! Children: if a profile name sounds like something that comes out of a cheap horror movie, like "DARK ANGEL OF DEATH WHO EATS THE BRAINS OF GIRLS"...chances are you DO NOT WANT TO ADD THEM AS A FRIEND. Apparently there is new legislation in Congress now to block MySpace in all public schools and public libraries across the United States. All because little girls want to act like ***** and don't want to accept the consequences of their actions, and parents don't want to accept the fact that their "innocent little girls" are posing as 18 year old crack ****** trying to buy drugs.

A 14 year old girl and her mother have filed a law suit against Myspace.com because she was sexually assaulted by another user. She said he lied by saying he was on the high School football team, and THAT gained her trust. Obvisiously if thats all it took to gain her trust, chances are she'll pretty much trust anybody and anyone (not really MySpace's fault). She's suing Myspace.com for $30 million because she believes MySpace has poor security. WHAT A CROCK OF ****! Myspace is not a babysitting service, take responsiblity for your own actions!!! What happened to her is a terrible thing and should never happen to anyone, period. Where were her parents? Why are they not held responsible for what thier daughter does in thier own home? Myspace has many many ways of blocking out/screening people, some are: you have to ACCEPT the person you may or may not know as a friend, as well as deny people you do or do not know, you can have certain sercurity measures added like making your profile private, or asking for last name and email address, you can block a person, you can only associate with people you ALREADY know or simply you can NOT be on MySpace if you lack common sense.

Eventually, if this continues, MySpace could be totally outlawed from the Internet. Restrictions will be put in place in order to make MySpace "safer". I don't know about you, but I use MySpace to keep in touch with my family and friends, use it for messages, and just to have a space that is my own. Just because some children want to act grown up, does that mean I may have to eventually give up my MySpace? If you feel the same way I do, please, repost this in your blogs or bulletins, or both as "STOP BLAMING MYSPACE". If enough people post this and spread the word, maybe people will get the picture and stop blaming MySpace for every little thing that their children do wrong. As a user of MySpace, we should all repost this and take some sort of action. This is not a chain letter, and nothing will happen to you if you don't repost this in 321654987 seconds. However, of all bulletins you will read today, I am sure that this one is the only one that actually has a point to it.
It's about time adults take responsibility for their own children, instead of blaming it on someone else.
Posted by auntcarma (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Parents are responsible....but
I have three daughters and because of something that came up (not sexual, but a problem anyway) with myspace, we attempted to try and obtain information about our own childs account and they outright refused to help us.

Our daughter was even willing to authorize it but myspace said no and that if we contacted them again about it they would delete the account.

Well that was fine with us but did not resolve the issue we still had.

So my kids have been forbidden to go near this website again and we check their computer everyday to see where they have been and what they have done.

Only once have they violated our demand and went to myspace. They were punished and have not done so again.

But this does not help with all the stress parents already have. I will deal with it but wished I did not have to.

Myspace tries to or has tried to in the past give the impression this was a safe place for children to talk to their friends. This is far from the truth and has been a safe place for sexual predators to stalk children instead.
Posted by tskirk1 (1 comment )
Link Flag
You are sad. They are young girls and these are grown men. Do you know a perv thats why you defend them so much!!!!
Posted by saura82 (2 comments )
Link Flag
No way they will win
Take care of your children myspace isn't a daycare
Posted by kyle172 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
First of all auntcarma you are an ignorant a holes. It does not matter how a child dresses and adult male should not be touching a young female. You must be the parent of a pervert if you feel the need to protect a child molester over a young victim. Get your priorities straight. Myspace has a obligation. Not to just sit their and make money. Maybe if their site was safer their dumb ***** wouldnt be in that position. I myself am looking to sue their no good ***** after some one has takin over my 13 year olds myspace account and we can not regain control of it. We do not even have or can even get a new password. With all the nasty perversion which your family member might like is being written its puttin my daughter in danger from people like the one you know!!!! I have sent in many requests and explained to them the thing that are bein written like ' I LIKE TO SUCK BIG d's, contact me for a bj"., AND THEY HAVE YET TO ANSWER. THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR 2 WEEKS ALREADY. Imagine if an ADULT male myspace user that is a PERV lives close by and realises the same girl he sees in myspace writtin that nonsence is standing here in the store right next to me. Imagine what could run through his perverted mind and what could happen to my daughter. Next time i'll be writing would be from a state prison cause i done murdered the pig!!! Myspace is a crock of bullcrap. It also says no nudity and yet i've seen brest and ***** on profile pics when you go into to play a simple game of poker. As you see they are easy to hack. There for all children are not safe!!!! So screw you AUNTCARMA!
Posted by saura82 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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