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Families sue News Corp, alleging MySpace negligence
MySpace announces Zephyr age verification system

 2:32 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Four families whose underage daughters were sexually abused after meeting people they encountered on the social networking site MySpace have sued News Corp., the site's parent company, alleging it was negligent in not creating safety measures to protect younger users

MySpace announced Wednesday that it was developing software to allow parents to see if their children were creating multiple profiles -- one to show to their folks, another to show to the rest of the world. Dubbed Zephyr, the parental tools are expected to be available this summer.

from the sf chronicle:



 3:19 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

MySpace is certainly a lightning rod for problems in social networks. These suits are kind of worrisome. MySpace, and everyone else, is caught between trying to invade the privacy of their users (to verify age, identify problematic behavior that hasn't been reported, etc.) and getting sued every time something bad happens between two members.


 3:30 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

MySpace has put plenty of security measures in place. The problem is that kids lie about their age and of course nobody ever bothers to read the T&Cs.

All of these suits will be dropped.


 4:04 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Since we want to sue someone when bad things happen, a better headline would have been: "Kids sue their familes alleging negligence in raising them."

If I knew that my kids visit a dangerous site, I'd blobk it myself, not rely on them to protect my own kids. Myspace didn't bring those kids in this world.


 4:27 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Since we want to sue someone when bad things happen, a better headline would have been: "Kids sue their familes alleging negligence in raising them."

If I knew that my kids visit a dangerous site, I'd blobk it myself, not rely on them to protect my own kids. Myspace didn't bring those kids in this world.

Agreed, spot on...


 4:34 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I know one thing that is for certain. I am tired of all the hotlinking of images going on from there. It eats up bandwidth.


 4:44 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whatever happened to people being held accountable for their own actions?

If you haven't taught your kids to be smarter than meeting perfect strangers by the time they're a teenager, I don't think it's News Corps fault.

News Corp should counter sue for child neglect and unfit parents!


 5:09 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Responsibility lunacy is the version of 'responsibility' where someone stands to speak and to assign responsibility by the argument "(those) people need to take personal responsibility for . . " (whatever).

Responsibility evolved moves beyond finger pointing and 'assigning responsibility'. Assigned responsibility is the antithesis of responsibility. Assigned responsibility is blame, one of the most unproductive processes of the human cortex.

Evolved personal responsibility is everyone asking themselves - "What is it that I . . " - I being MySpace management, all MySpace employees, all parents, all kids - everyone working on the issue from the point of view that any and all of us might be or have the answer or the power to have effected a different outcome.

You get that? If not, please try. We are blithely waltzing to a bad end in an era were the idea of personal responsibility has been corrupted, badly, into "It's not us/me. It's them!"

You know that somewhat much maligned quote "It takes a village"? Yes, that one. It's a book title too. The underlying premise of that quote is about the most spot on grasp of what makes life on this planet or in your neighborhome or home . . work.

Or not.

So, seeing how we all are once again poised to join in the blame game, allow me to point a finger to what I believe to be the human imperative of this century:

If we don't get ourselves . . if we don't see how we are our own worst enemies . . if we don't evolve in our thinking and get that the blame or titiliation game sells media advertising but is otherwise a cancer of the human psyche . . . If we don't stop the nonsense and start to get a handle on the real issue of what personal responsibility really means . . . there will be a price to pay. Think global warming or any other transnational issue.

You get that? I'm a bit pounding on the lecturn, hoping to get at least one or two people to crush the granite, to hit the stop button, to see that this moment is just like a thousand other moments where we all join in - mindlessly, like automatons - in the blame game.

Folks, before everyone takes sides on this issue and decries the perspective of one side or another pause to ponder this: What would it look like if, when there's a tragedy or a bad outcome, if all - ALL - any and all of us did was ask "What is it that I did or didn't do that may have contributed to this?" - the world might actually work.

So, whilst everyone is lining up to point the finger of irresponsibility allow me to ask: "What did I do that contributed to this?"

Well, for one thing, I didn't block MySpace or Facebook and I didn't excercise relentless parental oversight. I assigned trust to my children and maybe that was unwise, but anyone who is a parent knows in a somewhat anxiety provoking way that a child's growth is stimulated - is brought about - in large measure by letting go the controls and assigning trust. So, we have a dilema, don't we?

Maybe, if instead of assigning trust to my children I simply blocked MySpace and Facebook, then as a consequence of my untrusting actions, MySpace corporate - seeing the drop in traffic - might have noticed and paused to ask "Hey, Webwork, what's going on? You worried Webwork? Don't worry Mr. Webwork, we're putting safeguards in place to protect your children . . . and our bottom line."

But I didn't. And they didn't. And bad things have now happened and, as is the way of humankind, we now enter the blame and escape blame and 'assign responsibility' game and we are so deep into it we seldom stop to ask: Is this as good as it gets for humankind?

So, let me ask: Can any of you, about to assign responsibility to the parents or anyone else, think of something that you . . or you or you . . might have done or not done that may have made a small difference in the outcome for these children and MySpace?

I don't mean to mess with your heads. I don't. I don't. I don't.

Okay, forgive me. I do.

I do NOT mean to pontificate - preach - or act like I'm the righteous man, but it might strike you that way and I risk that and forgive me. Sorry. Trust me. I know all my flaws and jerkiness and know I have no right to preach and wish I did a better job of communicating something that deeply concerns me.

Because we're all in this together and if we don't 'get ourselves' and how we launch into issues often first and foremost by assigning blame or assigning responsibility, we just may assign ourselves the path to extinction.

Anyone get that their first impulse was to look for a cause of this issue entirely outside themselves? You get that? There's some hope then.Let the stone throwing stop.

Ouch! Who did that?

[edited by: Webwork at 5:26 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]


 5:29 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm sorry, I'm having a little trouble parsing through that last one.

My godson (who was 12 at the time) told me that his best friend (13 at the time) had put up a MySpace page on a lark, he posted a picture of himself in his underwear, and listed his age as 16 so that the profile wouldn't be blocked, and added a few risque' (albeit misspelled) points because he thought it would be funny to maybe attract some pedophile and play him along. Took me about five minutes to find the page, and my godson's mother and I confronted the kid's mother about it - SHE thought it was funny too! Her whole attitude was a 'boys will be boys' kind of thing; my friend and I sat down with the kid and got him to remove the profile, but he could very well have put another one up.

I have a hard time blaming MySpace when I see things like this.


 5:42 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Webwork, after all those nice words the lawyer in you knows that the parents can't take responsibility because there's no deep pockets in that, it's not profitable. This lawsuit isn't about who should be blamed or who could've stopped the problem, this is all about who can pay the most, it's about profit from tragedy pure and simple.

Had these kids met a predator on some 20-something kid's blog on a $99/month server there wouldn't be a lawsuit because the 20-something has no deep pockets.

Let's face it, it's all about greed, not responsibility.

MySpace is no more responsible than the phone company that provided the connection than electric company that powered the connection than the computer company that built the computer than the browser that connected to the website.

True, it "takes a village" but every now and then some village idiots appear and it's hard to assign the village responsible for the actions of the village idiots, either the kids or the predators.

Teach your children well and keep your predators in jail for life.


[edited by: incrediBILL at 5:43 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]


 5:46 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think that from a legal point, this can be viewed alot like fake ids and bars.

If a minor gets served alcohol in a bar as the result of that minor using a fake ID, the bar can't really be held liable. They did their duty and checked.

Where they take on liability is when they knowingly serve alcohol to a minor, even with a fake ID. If they know the kid is underage, no amount of "I checked the ID" will help them.

This same concept applies to alot of things in life. Once you are aware of an issue, you are obliged to address it or face the consequences.

That is what we have here. Initially, they were not liable as they were not aware, but I think that they have been aware of the issues for quite some time now and have not done much to address it.

The whole concept of "invasion of privacy" by asking my age and targeting problematic behavior is whooey. I get asked to hand over state issued identification every time I buy alcohol, cigs (for the hubby) or go into a nightclub. There is even a magnetic strip that they now run that could technically be tracking how often I buy said products and services.

And targeting problematic behavior is the whole point of the police and mall cops the world over.

The issues brought up by these parents are no different than the issues that B&M locations where young people congregate have and B&M locations are held by law to deal with them quickly or face fines and penalties. How is MySpace any different than a teen nightclub? How long would a teen nightclub stay open if they knowingly allowed such behaviors to happen on their premises?

If they are not held to that then we should really do away with those pesky drinking, cig, driving, sexual consent & voting age laws as they are all under this same umbrella as well.

Are the parents responsible too? Of course! But as Webwork said (I think) it takes a community, parents and society, to take responsibility for the welfare of our children and future.


 5:54 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

All fine and dandy, but we are talking about Children, being taken advantage of by people who know the Internet MUCH better than the average child.

Yes, easy to blame the parents, and I do for most of society's problems.

But the internet is moving far, far faster than the average parent is aware of - face it, more than half the readers here make money on the basis that their understanding of the Internet is superior to that of the average Joe Parent.

When the day dawns that the Internet is 'mature', and the average person knows what's what, fine; blame the parents and let the predators and their Internet pals take their chances.

But for the moment, denying that websites have some responsibility is giving away other people's kids. And maybe your own, to those that have them.


 6:00 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

but we are talking about Children

Actually, we're talking about teenagers.

They can ride a bus alone, get a job and drive a car, so if they're responsible enough for all that, they can't handle MySpace?



 6:07 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

they can't handle MySpace?

I think that is the point. No, they can't. Teens are still children and would be why that in most crimes they do not face adult penalties. They are not mature enough to deal with these things.

When I was 16, I use to literally blow stop signs at 120MPH. I thought I knew better. I thought bad things wouldn't happen. And thank god, nothing did. Now, I can't even bring myself to push the car to 120MPH. I know what can happen. Teens aproach everything like this. Nothing bad will happen, it is all in fun... till...


 6:20 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think Myspace and the many others that have built a business and made a lot of money based around the teen market should try to do more policing and checking , They have been and are making the money from this market and should put some of that back into more safeguards

The problem is if parents block Myspace , Facebook and others new ones will appear similar to the MP3 download sites

Parents also need to take some responsibility to try and educate children as to the dangers, most parents drum into kids from a very young age about not taking sweets from strangers so maybe parents need to be educated and better informed by the media about the dangers of social networking so they can educate their children

I know my kids do use Myspace and am sure that not everything they say would meet with my approval but I have to hope I have spent enough time educating and talking to them that it will be OK



 6:51 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Honestly, Myspace does need to take more action. We are talking about children getting hurt.

You have to look at a website as a responsibility. A good example of this is if I own a ecommerce site and I allow my employees to take home customers personal information and credit card information I would have quite a mess and could get sued!

The same thing if I owned a building and rented space to sexual offenders and allowed families to live in the same building. I am sure in some places that would be illegal for me to do as a landlord.

Bottom line, myspace can expect to get themselves in more hot water over the years and needs to get some type of insurance. I can see where an attorney could easily convince a jury that a "business" did not do enough to protect children.

If your business caters to minors, expect to have issues like these. If you really think about the terms and condition of myspace, they really can not apply to minors. Minors are not legally allowed to enter in to contracts in most states. Terms of service is basically a contract.....


 7:09 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Lawyer bait, eh iBILL? How about a little programmer bait? :-P

iBILL, you're a smart and experienced guy and programmer. Can you think of any measures MySpace might have employed to either detect or reduce the risk of predatory behavior by adults or dangerous behavior by minors?

iBILL, do you think that MySpace is aware that a place like TheirSpace must be a magnet for pedophiles, sexual predators, for sexual opportunists? You're a smart programmer. Can you conceive of some systematic changes that might detect, thwart, deter, . whatever . . sexual liaison activity involving minors and adults?

Anything at all? If not then I wonder if MySpace is equally helpless?

iBILL, pointing to the lawyer in me disregards everything else that matters, such as the hope that MySpace works as hard as I do - even harder in the realm of their expertise (online social networking and technology) - to protect children whilst allowing them a measure of freedom so necessary to maturation.

You're waaay smarter and, I daresay based on having raised a few glasses of beer with you, more human than the reductionist comment suggests. Despire your otherwise cranky exterior I don't believe for a moment that your comment to the effect that "it's all about the lawyer's greed" is where you see the debate ending. That would suggest that you don't have a mind that works overtime trying to see how to programatically thwart or reduce all manner of bad online behavior.

Say it ain't so, iBILL! Say your mind already is writing the outlines of programming routines to detect the nasty stuff of social networking! IF 'sexually provactive words or sex code' THEN 'send alert-warning about the risks of anonymnity' AND IF . . . Automate it, right? Maybe have a routine that sends an email to parents every time there's a login and . . .? C'mon fella, you telling me there's nothing to be done?

Unless, of course, you don't really enjoy a challenge to your programming skills, and you're not quite the programmer that I've made you out to be, as someone who programs systems that detect and thwart bad behavior. ;-P

And, yes, I know that there's other issues, such as privacy involved here.

[edited by: Webwork at 7:22 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]


 7:40 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think one key question is whether there are steps that MySpace can take to reduce the probability of such incidents without compromising the privacy of their members. Really, it all comes down to age. An online exchange that would be perfectly acceptable between two twenty-somethings would be highly problematic if one participant was 14 and the other 43.

The only solution to the age issue is to have some positive identification by a third party. State driver's licenses in the US are used to prove age for, say, buying cigarettes or entering a bar. To require such positive identification for a site like MySpace, though, would be very difficult and messy. The logistics, cost, and privacy implications would be huge.


 7:57 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

If a kid was attacked in a park would they sue the the local gov for putting the park there and allowing the kid in the park. I doubt it in my mind it's the same thing.


 8:04 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

If a kid was attacked in a park would they sue the the local gov for putting the park there

Not if it happened once, but if it became a constant and the government did nothing to stop it (step up police, put in more lights, etc.), you bet they would sue and have for that matter. They aren't sueing because MySpace is there, but because MySpace is failing to take action with known safty issues.

The logistics, cost, and privacy implications would be huge.

Will someone please explain to me what the privacy implications are in having to give your age?!? We have to do it all the time in the offline world, why does it become a privacy concern online?

But beyond that, I am surprised that the government has not pushed the issue already. My 11 year old son can't buy alcohol in a store, but nothing is really stopping him from doing so at an online wine store. Same for p()rn and other "adult" things.

Logistics and cost are just something we should deal with. I am sure it is costly and a logistical nightmare to register every driver and vehical on the road, but we manage it somehow, albeit through lengthy hours spent DMV on Saturdays. But it benifits society as a whole, so we do it.

The soomer we get off our rumps and stop saying "Well, it's too costly and painful", the sooner the internet will become a kinder gentler place. And before anyone gets all up in arms about the freedom of the internet, the Wild West was a romantic idea as well, but civilazation eventually has to step in.

The fact is that as legitimate business people (most of us anyway) we would benifit from an internet where people didn't feel that they or their children were threatened. It would mean more people using it which translates to more $$$$ for all.

[edited by: hannamyluv at 8:09 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]


 8:09 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Oh, but people do sue for being attacked in the park. If you want to cater towards minors as a business, there is liability you have to expect.


 8:24 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm with trinorthlighting; I hope it becomes as miserably irritating for myspace as their uncontrolled policies have made it for me.


 8:40 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

The fact is that as legitimate business people (most of us anyway) we would benifit from an internet where people didn't feel that they or their children were threatened.

Aren't kids threatened when they cross the street, when they walk to school, when they are in a mall and get separated from their parents, isn't it the parents responsibility to educate their kids on how to deal with those situations?

When the parents leave the kid in a car by themselves, when the parents go to the movies and leave a 12 year old home alone for a couple hours, or maybe they go to Europe for a week and leave ths kids behind. Is that so different from leaving the kids alone to play on the computer and pleading ignorance? Don't parents teach their kids the basicas of how to avoid these situations & if the kids we getting all the support, love & comfort from their parents, why the heck would they go meet some stranger from the Internet?

If parents started getting sued for when their kids were abducted, talk to and met the wrong person on MySpace, then maybe they would start to take responsibility. Not that that makes sense either but people in this country do need to start to learn to take responsibility for thier own actions or inactions, eduction or lack of education about the world evolving around us and stop blaming everyone else in the world for thier own problems or shortcomings.

If someone underage presents a fake ID to buy beer, then has the bar has done it's job? If tht same person claims they are old enough to get something or join MySpace or whatever has MySpace done its' job. The individual lied & presented false information, MySpace didn't misrepresent anything.


 8:46 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

If someone underage presents a fake ID to buy beer, then has the bar has done it's job?

And if the bar gets a reputation as being a good place to go to get a beer because no one looks too hard at your id, does the government do something? You bet so.

No, you can't protect all kids, but you can make reasonable efforts. When a child here was hit by a car a few months ago walking to school, the town it happened in put in a crosswalk and lights at the intersection and added a crossing guard during school starting and ending times. They took reasonable actions to protect.

MySpace has the same obligation. It is no different for offline business and organizations.

Parents do teach these things and teens proptly ignore them. Jeeze, people! How long has it been since you were teenagers? Please don't tell me that you were all angels and saints who never ignored what your parents said because you thought you knew better.

Parents can only do so much, and I will agree that some don't do enough, but we parents need help on the other side for the times our kids do dumbass things.

Can anyone tell I am really bored today? ;)


 10:07 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Parents do not get sued when they get abducted, but they can go to jail for neglect.

Myspace executives know they have an issue with child exploitation. You can bet when the government gets involved there will be some drastic changes.


 10:50 pm on Jan 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

You can bet when the government gets involved there will be some drastic changes.

As webwork pointed out there isn't really any good way, from a programming standpoint, to "protect" minors.

And from an human editorial standpoint it's an even more unmanageable situation.

So, what might the government force MySpace to do?

1) Force them to verify age using creditcards or scanned/faxed IDs.

- Result: People stop using MySpace, it disappears overnight.

2) Force them to develop some kind of automated system to flag certain types of conversation for editorial review.

- Result: Big brother. People stop using MySpace, it disappears overnight.

3) Force them to allow no interaction between people under (pick an arbitrary age) 18.

- Result: People lie about their age and if that doesn't work, MySpace disappears overnight.

And once MySpace is gone? People will use some other social net site. And if the US imposes regulations that apply to all social networking? Social networking moves overseas.

Once you assign the responsibility for this kind of thing to the service providers, that's the end of the service because there's really nothing they can do to stop it.

[edited by: IanKelley at 10:51 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2007]


 2:50 am on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's a catch-22 as you can't protect your privacy and your children all at the same time.

If you want to protect the children, require an adult to create the account using a valid CC and some other information, perhaps force them to use VERIFIED BY VISA which requires a PIN number.

However, I'll stick with teaching the kid, take responsibility for protecting your own family, I did, it's not MySpace's job. If you don't trust the kid, install software on the kid's computer that will track what they do and report back to you where they went and what they typed.

Your kids are your job, nobody else's.



 5:25 am on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

I believe MySpace has no culpability in this case. If you are not supervising your children, who is responsible? It's sorta like if they sneak off in your Corvette, wreck it and are killed because they lack the knowledge of operating that vehicle in a particular environment, do you sue GM? GM may have built the car. They did not create the situation.
Most of us have seen these girls who are under 18 years old on MySpace. It's quite pathetic. Some of the pictures these girls post on myspace are quite provocative. While they may be trying to entice the boy that sits next to them in class, they are also inviting the pervs on the internet to harass them. Not that there is justification for pervs to harass, but they do.

I would never let my child on myspace. Too much at risk.

I do think myspace should limit membership to adults only. +18


 10:25 am on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

You guys must be wayyyy too old to remember what it was to be a teenager.

No-one here is saying that teenagers should be utterly protected - but to pretend sites who invite kids in have NO responibility is really sad.

If myspace (etc), had any kind of warning or protection, they might have a defence - but they want to rip off the kids money, and don't care who else does what.

Even in the 'real' world, you'd expect service providers to have some kind of security and / or warnings (ever been to a public swimming facility)

So what's so wrong with websites doing something in return for the billions they pick from the kids pockets?

Kids are the future - everybody's future. Treat 'em bad, and they'll stay bad.


 2:48 pm on Jan 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

A few things people really need to understand.

1. The internet requires no physical contact between people.

2. Without physical contact, there is no way to ensure that a person presenting a credit card or even an ID of some form, is actually the person listed on the credit card or ID. Thus there is no way to do age-verification without face to face, physical contact. Telephone and fax are not a form of physical contact.

3. The internet is not a childrens playground. The internet was not designed as a safe place for children to play.

4. The internet is like the real world. There are good places, there are bad places. Just like the real world, the internet requires parental supervision. To think otherwise means you do not have a realistic understanding of the internet.

Personally, I think it is time for people to start realizing that the internet was not designed as a playground for children and that because the internet spans the universe, it is not ever going to become as safe place for children.

This 45 message thread spans 2 pages: 45 ( [1] 2 > >
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