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"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where to draw the line?

Yesterday, Slashdot linked to an interesting article about a teenager and her mother suing MySpace.com, a social networking site for $30 million.The complaint: that the website had failed to protect her (the teenager) from a sexual predator who molested her on their first date.

More than the article itself, the comments which follow it provide an insight into the general thinking on this issue -- that the lawsuit is downright ridiculous. The lawyers representing the girl, who is a minor, argue that "the Web site does not require users to verify their age" and that "the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 utterly ineffective."

The question to be asked here is how much security can a social networking site provide to its users. Especially to the foolhardy, irredeemable ones (like this girl)? Driving license verification? Credit card verification?

Where is the personal control here? The site didn't fool the girl into believing the guy. If MySpace.com's raison d'etre was to aid the molestation of this girl, then the lawyers have a case. Rather, we are told that the two communicated via emails and over phone as well. Doesn't that make it consensual? How can the mother, who now has the guts to sue the site, have any claim at all, as she failed to regulate / monitor her daughter's internet usage?

As someone pointed out, if the guy and the girl communicated over phone, why not sue the phone company?

Just like the phone, the Internet (in this case) is just an enabler. This incident could have been avoided at many levels -- the girl could have been more cautious, the mother could have regulated her daughter, a freer offline dialogue at home.

They say that a bad workman blames his tools. Here too, it is the same. Instead of owning up for their mistakes, people are simply passing the buck.

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