MySpace.com, News Corp. sued in assault cases

Site and parent company are being sued by the families of girls allegedly solicited and sexually assaulted by adult users of MySpace.

MySpace.com and News Corp. are being sued by the parents of girls who were allegedly solicited and sexually assaulted by adult users of MySpace.

The families, who come from New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, each filed separate suits in California state court, the law firms representing the families announced Thursday.

Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer at the popular social-networking site based in Santa Monica, Calif., released a statement Thursday in response to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"MySpace serves as an industry leader on Internet safety and we take proactive measures to protect our members," the statement said. "We provide users with a range of tools to enable a safer online experience. Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone to apply common-sense offline safety lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family dialogue about smart Web practices."

In the past, MySpace has assisted law enforcement in tracking and catching fugitives with MySpace profiles. The company has also taken steps to protect minors.

The civil suits against MySpace and parent company News Corp., which were filed on Wednesday, allege negligence, recklessness, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation on the part of the companies, according to the law firms.

Criminal charges have been filed against all the accused adult MySpace users, and/or their accomplices in some cases, in the families' home states. Some of the accused have been convicted and are serving time in prison. The adult accused in the Texas case is currently serving a 10-year sentence there; the adult accused in the New York case is awaiting trial on felony sexual assault and felony rape charges in New York. His adult male accomplice has already pleaded guilty.

The adult accused in the Pennsylvania case is awaiting trial on 12 charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

The South Carolina family has two daughters, age 14 and 15, who were allegedly lured, intoxicated, drugged and then sexually assaulted. The two accused adults have been arrested and await criminal prosecution.

MySpace announced Wednesday that it will launch Zephyr, software for parents to monitor their children's interaction on MySpace. The software was met with criticism, however, as it is limited in access and scope.

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