MySpace Still Not Liable For Sexual Assault Between Two MySpace Users

from the in-case-you-missed-it-the-first-time dept

Two years ago, we pointed to one of the more ridiculous lawsuits attempting to shift the blame and responsibility for certain actions away from those who were responsible, to those who had the money. A 13-year-old girl went onto MySpace, lied about her age, and struck up a relationship with an older boy. Eventually, the two agreed to meet, and the girl says that the boy sexually assaulted her. So, obviously, the mother of the 13-year-old girl sued MySpace. It seemed like such a good strategy that the boy accused of rape also considered blaming MySpace. Of course, as you should know by now, section 230 of the CDA (and basic common sense) protects websites from the actions of their users. And, in fact, that’s exactly what the judge told the woman and her daughter in tossing out the case.

Rather than understanding the law (and basic responsibility), the mother of course appealed the decision, and even tried to come up with a novel argument for why this wasn’t about section 230 at all, by saying that the company was somehow negligent in “policing its premises.” Luckily (and not surprisingly) the judge isn’t buying it. Eric Goldman lets us know that the appeals court has again sided with MySpace in pointing out that there is no liability for MySpace. They also tried to pull in the recent (somewhat questionable) decision, which was in a different circuit and argued that lost safe harbors because it specifically requested illegal information (which probably wouldn’t even apply in this case). However, since appeals are only on the facts argued in the lower court and this was an entirely new argument, the court refused to consider it.

Either way, this still seems like a case where the girl and her mother are blaming the wrong party in trying to squeeze millions of dollars out of MySpace. The best summation of the situation probably comes from the transcript of the original trial court hearing, which the appeals court quoted:

THE COURT: I want to get this straight. You have a 13-year-old girl who lies, disobeys all of the instructions, later on disobeys the warning not to give personal information, obviously, [and] does not communicate with the parent. More important, the parent does not exercise the parental control over the minor. The minor gets sexually abused, and you want somebody else to pay for it? This is the lawsuit that you filed?

MR. ITKIN [Counsel for the Does]: Yes, your Honor.

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Comments on “MySpace Still Not Liable For Sexual Assault Between Two MySpace Users”

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TheDock22 says:


Well the biggest problem with this case is that the girl lied and said she was 18 when registering. How is MySpace supposed to be responsible for people who lie when signing up for their services?

I mean, honestly what are they suppose to do. Require a social security number or proof of a birth certificate? The whole case was ridiculous and the fault should be on the mother, who was irresponsible not only for letting her daughter go out, but also for raising an idiot.

Liquid says:

Re: Duh

I agree Geekgal. I am a firm believer of giving a kid a whooping if they misbehave or do something wrong. Children no-a-days need more discipline, but you have those human rights faction of people that think spanking a child constitutes as abuse. To be honest if I was the judge I mandate that all of her children no longer have computers in their rooms, all computer need to be hooked up with in viewing distance of said parents, and the parents need to pay a little bit more attention to what the hell they were doing… To be honest I had a friend from college that did that exact same thing, and the girl that he went to meet was a little to young, and come to find out she was trying to run away from home… So parents before you read this go “WTF!!!!!! the guy should be punished for this… that judge is a moron”… Think again… It wasnt the guys fault the girl lied, and lets face it now-a-days young teenage girls are looking old then what they should…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Duh

@geekgal: No offence, but that’s one of the funniest things about reading opinions from Americans. If you’re a “conservative” then any action you think is wrong must be “liberal” and vice versa. Never any middle ground, always black or white, never grey. Thank God not everyone sees the world like that and some people can be more realistic.

Other than that, yeah it’s a parenting problem. But, it’s also a problem with the litigious society that teaches everyone that things are never their fault, and if they can just win a lawsuit against the other guy, they’ll be rich (and the lawyers who string them along since they get paid either way).

Peter says:


Does MySpace now have the right to counter sue in a situation such as this? The original case was pretty frivolous, but the appeal was ridiculous. Shouldn’t MySpace have the opportunity to recoup their legal fees? My legal training is limited to afternoons of Law and Order, so I was wondering if anyone had any info on this.

Derek Mark Edding says:

Greedy, not Liberal

GeekGal: you misspelled “greedy” as “liberal”. I’ve moved towards the political left in the last seven years, but I still think both the parent and the daughter were laughably clueless.

Greed is greed, not politics. For example, I think the contractors who stole thirteen billion dollars from the USA in Bagdad were unethical, rudderless and greedy, not neo-conservative.

Kevin says:

Re: Greedy, not Liberal

Derek, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

And regarding the chowder-headed lawyer potentially taking it on a contingent basis, it was probably:

1. A less experienced lawyer. You’d have to be a dunce to try to appeal based on claims that weren’t in the original case…


2. A case where the inexperienced lawyer was expecting that they could probably get a quick settlement of a couple hundred thousand dollars rather than a judgement.

Overcast says:

They should be liable – just like if you met someone at a coffee shop, and this happened – it should be liable. Or maybe you met someone at the library – then the library should be liable. Perhaps you met them on the street – then the city should be liable.

Damn!! With thinking like that, I could be a lawyer!

Shane K says:

What the $^%#??

Another case of the parent trying to push their responsibility off on someone or something else. Play an active role in your child’s life and stuff like this won’t happen. Instead of spending time with her you tried to let the computer be the babysitter. It sickens me to think you did not feel fully responsible for what happened. You had to know in your heart of hearts that you were to blame. I bet that trial seemed like an eternity from where you were sitting.

John (profile) says:

One issue down

Okay, so the issue of suing MySpace has been taken care of, but how about the larger issue of being able to file the lawsuit in the first place?
Maybe it’s time the court system put some filters in place. I think some paralegals who decide the merit of the case would cost a lot less than the judge (or appeals judge) who has to hear the arguments and then rule it’s a frivolous case.

And who are these lawyers that are accepting these cases? In this story, the “lawyer” must either be:

1) Uneducated in the law. If so, he needs to do some research before taking any more cases. Personally, I wouldn’t want an under-educated lawyer representing me.

2) He knows the law and he knows he’ll probably lose, but he’ll take the case (and put on a good show) for the *money* he receives from the client.

Either way you look at it, there seems to be an ethics problem that should be resolved. How about fining the lawyer for wasting the court’s time? And then double the fine if the guy appeals the case.

Hulk Hogan says:

Duh by PaulT

Did you read Derek’s post(#13)? Trust me brother, we got shades of gray that haven’t been named yet.

“one of the funniest things about reading opinions from Americans”

“Thank god not everyone sees the world like that and some people can be more realistic”

Just curious, would your above statements place Americans in the black or white catagory???

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