MySpace Wins Sex Assault Lawsuit

A federal judge in Texas has dismissed a lawsuit against MySpace stemming from the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.

Judge Sam Sparks held that MySpace has no obligation to protect the youngster, identified only as "Julie Doe," from a crime committed by another user of the social networking site. "If anyone had a duty to protect Julie Doe, it was her parents, not MySpace," the judge wrote.

The lawsuit alleged that the teen was assaulted in May by 19-year-old Pete Solis, who had allegedly first contacted her via the site; the teen, who was 14 at the time of the alleged assault, had given her age as 18 when she created a profile. In the $30 million lawsuit, she and her family charged MySpace with negligence, gross negligence, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

Sparks dismissed the negligence and gross negligence charges, ruling that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects the company from lawsuits stemming from messages that users send each other. "To ensure that web site operators and other interactive computer services would not be crippled by lawsuits arising out of third party communications, the Act provides interactive computer services with immunity," wrote the judge.

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He likewise rejected the argument that MySpace was obligated to implement safety measures to prevent sexual predators from contacting minors. He added that holding MySpace negligent for failing to verify members' ages would "stop MySpace's business in its tracks."

Sparks also dismissed allegations of fraud and negligent misrepresentation, but ruled that the teen could refile those.

The youngster's attorney, Adam Loewy, said he intends to appeal the dismissal of the negligence claims to the Fifth Circuit and to refile the fraud and misrepresentation claims in California, where there are five other similar pending lawsuits against MySpace. He added that he plans to shortly file five others.

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