A 14-year-old girl who claims she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on MySpace filed a lawsuit on Monday against the social-networking site, seeking $30 million.
The suit, filed in Texas’ Travis County District Court, accuses MySpace of having “absolutely no meaningful protections or security measures to protect underage users,” according to The Associated Press.
The action was brought by an Austin teenager who alleges Pete Solis, a 19-year-old from Buda, Texas, obtained her phone number after pretending to be a high school senior and a member of his school’s football team in his MySpace profile.
The two exchanged messages and phone calls for several weeks before meeting in mid-May. Police said Solis picked the girl up from school and, following a fast-food meal, drove her to the movies to see “Mission: Impossible III.” The AP reports that after the flick, Solis drove the girl to an apartment-complex parking lot in South Austin, where he sexually assaulted her.
The victim, who suffered scrapes and bruises on her back, told her mother about the attack later that evening, and the police were called. The victim picked out Solis from a photo lineup, and Solis admitted to detectives that he’d had sex with the girl. Solis was charged May 19 with sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
MySpace “has got to take this seriously,” said Carl Barry, an attorney representing the girl and her mother.
Solis and News Corporation (which purchased the media company that owned MySpace last year for $580 million) are also named as defendants in the suit. Barry told the AP that he believes the lawsuit is the first of its kind against the social-networking service.
The filing suggests MySpace has “no financial incentive to institute any meaningful security measures,” as it might block the young users who are the site’s target audience from accessing it. “MySpace is more concerned about making money than protecting children online,” Barry said.
MySpace recently began tightening security in response to concerns from parents and child-safety advocates (see “Cops Investigating Fake MySpace Page That Defamed Minnesota Teacher” and “Is MySpace A Safe Space? New Social-Networking Sites Focus On Security” ).
Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace’s chief security officer, responded to Monday’s filing in a statement. “We take aggressive measures to protect our members,” the statement read. “Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone on the Internet to engage in smart Web practices and have open family dialogue about how to apply offline lessons in the online world.”