MySpace sued for failure to protect against sexual predators

Via The Angry Fag, I find this story about MySpace being sued by a 14-year-old girl (and her mother) for $30 million in damages after the girl was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on MySpace and agreed to meet believing he was "a high school senior who played on the football team." The two went to dinner and a movie, and then he drove her to "an apartment complex parking lot…where he sexually assaulted her, police said." The lawsuit contends that MySpace "fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators."

I feel absolutely dreadful that this girl was raped, and I'm glad that her attacker is being prosecuted.

And I also think this lawsuit is ridiculous.

For a start, I don't know how anyone can reasonably expect a public networking site like MySpace to protect all of its members from people who lie on the internet--and that's what this is really about. Asking MySpace to "protect minors from adult sexual predators" is essentially asking them to read the minds of its users. All the security protections in the world won’t stop a sexual predator from finding a way around them; it's a lot harder to fake being older to do an end-run around online security than it is to fake being younger. I can’t imagine what MySpace could conceivably do to prevent this kind of shit from happening, aside from warning users to take precautions in communicating with strangers.

And that's the rub, isn’t it? MySpace can't do anything but recommend that its users act responsibly, which is anathema in America 2.0, where personal accountability is as quaint as the Geneva Conventions.

If anyone is to blame for the failure to protect this girl from a sexual predator, it's her mother, who didn't monitor her 14-year-old's use of MySpace, email, or the phone, all of which she used to communicate with her eventual rapist. There is, of course, the possibility that the daughter arranged all of this without her mother's knowledge, in spite of her mother's best attempts to keep tabs on her, but, at age 14, I was making phone calls from the only phone in the house, which was in the kitchen, right next to the living room. I couldn't have arranged a secret meeting over the phone without my parents' knowledge unless my co-conspirator and I had learned to cluck out Morse code with our tongues.

At the time, I was nothing but miserable about this devastating encroachment on my privacy--my parents were the most stubborn, strict, unreasonable duo in the world! They hated me! All my friends had phones in their rooms! Argh!

My mean old parents didn't manage to protect me from everything. They gave me plenty of freedom even as they tried to be aware, and most of the time it was fine, and sometimes I mucked it up and got myself hurt. Just like most kids.

I know that's all easy to say, not being a parent myself, but like I said at the start, this holds only if anyone is to blame for the failure to protect this girl from a sexual predator. The wretched truth is that there might not be--aside from the rapist himself. We live in a world where sexual predators exploit the cracks and seams all the time to get what they want. It's not always someone else's fault that they manage to accomplish their dirty deeds. Sometimes the responsibility for such ugliness is the perpetrator’s alone.

(The Angry Fag; crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister.)

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