Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
liability, section 230, sexual assault

Companies:
myspace



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) Roommates.com decision, which was in a different circuit and argued that Roommates.com 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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  1. identicon
    You never know, 19 May 2008 @ 9:23am

    At last, a judge who beleaves it's the parents responsability to rase and protect thier kids.
    I Love It!

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