Four families whose underage daughters were sexually abused after meeting people via the networking site MySpace have sued News Corp., the site’s parent company, alleging it was negligent in not creating safety measures to protect younger users. Said Jason Itkin, a Houston attorney representing the families: “MySpace has not taken the steps necessary to protect its customers. They know that these predators have been there.” The lawsuits raise a broad cultural question: When it comes to monitoring children’s online behavior, where does parental responsibility end and corporate responsibility begin? MySpace policy bans children younger than 14 from the site. However, it is up to users to confirm their ages to the site.
One lawsuit says a teen identified as Julie Doe III created a MySpace profile when she was 15. Last year, a 25-year-old adult male MySpace user, a complete stranger to the teen, initiated contact with her. He lured Julie out to a meeting, drugged her and sexually assaulted her. The Houston Police Department and the FBI located Julie, still heavily drugged, according to the suit, “with multiple X marks carved into the side of her pelvis by a sharp blade, presumably by the 25-year-old MySpace user.” The attacker pleaded guilty to sexual assault and is serving a 10-year sentence.