Social networking site protection under CDA of 1996 Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw

Doe v. MySpace, Inc.

Doe v. MySpace, Inc.

Parties Involved:
Plaintiffs: Jane and Julie Doe, alias for mother and 13 year old daughter(victim), respectively.
Defendant: MySpace, Inc.

Julie Doe, 13 years old, creates a MySpace profile and misrepresents her age by claiming that she is 18 years old in order meet the MySpace registration age requirement of 14. The plaintiff admits to falsifying her age when joining the site. Julie Doe meets a 19 year old male, Pete Solis, over the online social networking site and communicates with him electronically via MySpace and, on numerous occasions, over the telephone. Doe and Solis arranged a meeting for May 12, 2006, during which time Doe was allegedly sexually assaulted by Solis. The following day, Julie’s mother, Jane Doe, contacted the Austin Police Department to report the assault. Solis was arrested and indicted for Sexual Assault.

The plaintiff brought suit against MySpace, Inc. claiming the defendants were aware that sexual predators were using the social networking site to communicate with minors and failed to take action toward preventing such interaction to occur. The accusations included negligence, gross negligence, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the security policies and age verification policies for the site were not adequate.

The court ruled according to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) and Texas State law concerning negligence. Under Texas law, “a person has no legal duty to protect another from the criminal acts of a third person or control the conduct of another.” The plaintiff argues that an exception should be made in order to protect minors from sexual predators and that MySpace is obligated to implement and enforce special precautions in order for this to take place. The court decides that there should be no special exception here and, further, it would not be feasible for MySpace to implement such security procedures.

The defendant moves for dismissal under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Under section 230(a), it states that application of this act must take into consideration the “continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services.” The Zeran v. AOL case was found applicable in these proceedings. In AOL v. Zeran, the court determined that, under the CDA, AOL was not obligated to remove false statements, that where defaming to the plaintiff, from its bulletin boards. The plaintiff poses a creative counter argument to this; they claim that the CDA is not applicable to this case because the charges at stake deal with MySpace’s lack of effective security measures protecting minors and not MySpace’s capacity as a publisher. The court disagrees. By the cases stated in the proceedings, the court determines that MySpace, Inc. is protected under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and is not guilty of negligence under Texas law and, therefore, has no legal duty to protect its users from sexual predators.

Recently, Julie’s family has appealed the decision of court. The decision of whether or not to overturn the original ruling is still pending.

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