MySpace Lawsuit Dismissed; Judge Cites CDA of 1996


In case you missed it (I certainly did), a recent Myspace lawsuit has been dismissed and Terry Heaton has a great writeup about what it means to the media and websites:

The judge cited the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in dismissing the negligence and gross negligence charges, something we all need to consider. The CDA is increasingly providing safe haven for web businesses, because it protects them against messages people send to each other via a site. This includes comments on blogs, for example.

I just love the fact that one of the lawyers said, "This is allowing sites like MySpace to avoid the responsibility to make the Internet safe for children".


Here's the thing ...

I'm all for safety on the Internet. However:

In a case that has ramifications for all media in the digital space, a federal judge in Austin, TX has dismissed a $30 million lawsuit against MySpace over the sexual assault of a 14-year old girl. The girl, who listed her age as 18 on her MySpace profile ...

I'm not sure how MySpace is supposed to verify with certainty things like age. I'm not sure that even getting a credit card number will do that.

Certainly, teaching children how to protect themselves would go a long way.

Parents aren't Responsible?

But doesn't the responsibility fall on the parents and not a site like Myspace? What if that same teenager called a telephone chatline and met someone?

Bill, that's what I'm saying

I believe that, although what happened to the girl is extremely unfortunate, her parents do have a responsibility to teach their children safety measures. And I don't know that they didn't. Or did. What is clear is that she took chances.

You're right about the chat line. Or phones. Or the local hamburger stand. We don't even know that the issue was that she misrepresented her age. There are bad people in the world, and it pays to take steps to avoid them.

So What's

So what's a typical website owner to do to keep from getting sued? There's not much a website owner can do to determine if someone is 18 or older. Even credit card verification doesn't work very well nowadays.

yeah that puzzles me

this has been extensively discussed on UK radio, and what keeps coming up is 'myspace should use better age validation - places like casinos manage it' - but while I think you can generally validate someone is over 18 or over 14 (points at which its possible to get specific bank/credit cards) how you can verify the age of someone who claims to be, say, 13, is a total mystery to me.

Sure I can imagine that there are ways to do it in general - but all of those are totally intrusive and/or can be faked as easily as they can be checked. They also all have the major flaw that if a minor cannot confirm their age and you have to rely on an adult to do so, and the purpose is to try and prevent adults preying on kids, well.... how does that stop a 40 year old pretending to be 13?

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