Responsibility for Online Dangers

In our litigious society here in the United States, it was bound to happen sooner or later. MySpace is being sued because it failed to protect a minor from a sexual predator:

“A 14-year-old Travis County girl who said she was sexually assaulted by a Buda man she met on sued the popular social networking site Monday for $30 million, claiming that it fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators.

The lawsuit claims that the Web site does not require users to verify their age and calls the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 ‘utterly ineffective.’

Solis contacted the girl through her MySpace Web site in April, telling her that he was a high school senior who played on the football team, according to the lawsuit.

In May, after a series of e-mails and phone calls, he picked her up at school, took her out to eat and to a movie, then drove her to an apartment complex parking lot in South Austin, where he sexually assaulted her, police said. He was arrested May 19.” (The Statesman)

Let me see if I understand this. A fourteen year-old girl meets someone she does not know online, goes on a date with him, something terrible happens, and somehow this is MySpace’s fault? Interesting logic.

This is the same logic that led to the McDonald’s suit when a woman burned herself by spilling hot coffee in her lap. I agree with Mike at TechDirt:

“Clearly, the 19-year-old was at fault here — and has been arrested for his actions. To then go on and sue MySpace is ridiculous. Do people sue the phone company for facilitating sexual assault when it happens over the phone? Or the ISP when it happens over email? This is just a blatant attempt to cash in on an unfortunate situation.” (TechDirt)

At fourteen, I would never have been allowed to get into a car with some guy. I know that parents cannot keep a 24×7 watch on their kids; however, parents do need to take responsibility for educating their children about the dangers in this world (both offline and online dangers) allowing their children to make smart choices. It is terrible that something like this happened to such a young girl; however, the responsibility for ensuring safety does not lie with MySpace. If this incident happened at a mall or a school, like many of them do, the mall or school should not accused of “failing to protect minors from sexual predators” and should not be held responsible for the actions of other people.