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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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MySpace Inadequate Protections Case

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Here’s a case worth watching. Social networking website MySpace is being sued by a 14-year-old girl in Texas state court in Austin for failing to provide adequate protections against sexual assault.

I have to wonder how MySpace, aside from being an almost perfect target for this kind of suit (cash reserves + negative publicity on this very subject), is any different from any other online forum these two might have met. The answer, I think, is it’s not, and therefore this case could have farreaching and interesting implications on how we interact online. For instance, if the court finds that Myspace has a duty to very actively monitor and thwart suspicious activity, I find it hard to see how they could avoid a direct and messy collision with privacy issues.

The WSJ has a copy of the complaint (.pdf)

This, however, takes the cake. The alleged sex offender wants to file a counter-claim that if MySpace is liable to his alleged victim, then it’s also liable to him.

The defense attorney for Pete Solis, the 19-year-old Texas community college student charged with sexually assaulting the girl dubbed “Julie Doe” in her lawsuit, told TIME that if the Texas courts accept the premise that MySpace is liable because the two met there, then his client also has a claim, since the alleged victim falsely portrayed herself on the website as 15 years old. [time magazine article]

Maybe I’ll find out next semester why whether or not the victim falsely portrayed herself as 15 years old is a rational defense.

MySpace’s new security guru, Hemanshu Nigam, has his work cut out for him. The media has latched on to MySpace as the poster-child for a problem which essentially is true of all social networking and in fact true of the internet in general, which indicates there are a lot more where this came from if the case shows any traction at all.

MySpace users who are 18 or over could no longer request to be on a 14- or 15-year-old’s friends’ list unless they already know either the youth’s e-mail address or full name. That means they won’t have access to personal information on their profiles.

“They’re going to lie about their ages,” said Monique Nelson, executive vice president of online safety advocate Web Wise Kids. “There’s no way to check age verification. In that respect, I don’t think that’s going to be very effective.” [forbes]

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Category: law in the news, technology law, Texas, Texans & the Law, Uncategorizable

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