Last summer we were disappointed, but not surprised, to see the family of a 14-year-old girl who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old guy she met on MySpace decide to sue MySpace for allowing it to happen. Such a lawsuit is ridiculous on any number of levels -- both legally and at a common sense level. It's like suing the phone company any time a phone is used as part of a crime. Legally, it's quite clear that MySpace is protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which makes it clear that a service provider is not responsible for the actions of its users. This makes perfect sense. The law is designed to make sure it's those who are actually responsible for the illegal actions who get in trouble for them. That's why it's good to see that the judge has tossed out this case, pointing to section 230 and noting that if it were allowed, companies like MySpace "would be crippled by lawsuits arising out of third-party communications." The lawyers for the family, of course, plan to appeal -- wasting even more resources on a case that is unlikely to get anywhere. Of course, we're still waiting to hear what the 19-year-old involved in this case is going to do. After the girl's family sued MySpace, his lawyers realized that if MySpace was somehow responsible, then perhaps they could sue as well, and take some of the blame off the guy.
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