MySpace is again at the centre of a row over online safety, after a court in Chicago heard that a girl of 14 was gang-raped and left unconscious in an alley after a real life meeting arranged via the social networking site.
Two high school students, named as Angel Alverio, 18, and Tony Pacheco, 17, have been charged with one count each of criminal sexual assault, the Chicago Sun Times reports. A 15-year old was charged with the same offence on Monday in a juvenile court, and fourth suspect is still at large.
The court heard that Alverio and Pacheco made contact with the girl through the MySpace site. After meeting, they allegedly drove her to a house in the 4800 block of West Walton. According to the Chicago Sun Times they all started drinking and playing video games.
Chicago Police officer JoAnn Taylor told the court that a large quantity of alcohol was consumed by the group, and that the girl "became ill, and that is when she was sexually assaulted multiple times by the offenders".
Assistant State Attorney John Henning told the court that after the alleged assault "the victim awoke and found herself abandoned in an alley", where she was found by a passer-by.
Ross Rice, spokesman for the FBI's Chicago office, told the paper: "We've seen a steady increase in the use of the internet in a number of different crimes - especially in the sexual exploitation of minors."
If nothing else, this case highlights that screening for age does not guarantee safety. The same precautions as ever apply: if you are going to meet up with someone in real life whom you have met online, do so in a public place, with a friend, and make sure someone knows what your plans are.
More details in the Chicago Sun Times report, here. ®