[Guest post by DRJ]
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard an appellate case today that pits internet freedom against protection of minors:
“The family of a teenage girl who says she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on MySpace.com asked a federal appeals court Monday to revive their lawsuit against the social networking Web site.
A federal judge dismissed the $30 million suit in February 2007, rejecting the family’s claim that MySpace has a legal duty to protect its young users from sexual predators.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas, also ruled that interactive computer services like MySpace are immune from such lawsuits under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments on the family’s bid to overturn Sparks’ rulings.”
The unidentified girl created a MySpace page when she was 13 but claimed she was 18. MySpace requires that users be at least 14. After corresponding for several weeks with a 19-year-old man she met through MySpace, they met in Travis County where he sexually assaulted her.
The parties’ positions were clear and succinct:
“A lawyer for MySpace and parent company News Corp., Harry Reasoner, told the 5th Circuit panel Monday that Congress enacted the 1996 law to promote the growth of the Internet and protect online companies from tort litigation.
Gregory Coleman, a lawyer for the girl’s family, said the law only gives MySpace a “limited shield” from liability. “It has a responsibility to (protect) children,” he said.
MySpace denies any wrongdoing, and says it warns members that its safety protections are not foolproof.”
I think Judge Sparks decided this case correctly but I’m sure it’s hard for the parents of this girl to accept.