As Peter Parker learned: With great power comes great responsibility. The adage that guided the Spider Man alter ego is fitting for Myspace.com, whose massive user base gives the social networking site vast reach.
According to lawsuits filed on behalf of four families, Myspace didn't act quickly enough to protect users who are minors from adult predators. The plaintiffs say their daughters were solicited and abused by adults using the site.
The issue of child safety on Myspace has become such a hot-button issue that the site is implementing ways to protect its underage users. Among them is software that would allow parents to track the name, age and location that teens enter into their profile. It would log the information in a password-protected file on a computer's hard disk for parents to monitor.
Among those being represented in the lawsuits is a 15 year-old girl who was "lured to a meeting, drugged and assaulted in 2006 by an adult Myspace user," lawyers contend. Two others were sisters who were "sexually assaulted and raped by two adult Myspace users" after being given alcohol.
The lawsuits announced today are the latest mishap to face Myspace. Yesterday, it was revealed that some 56,000 Myspace users fell victim to a phishing attack that exposed their passwords, allowing the perpetrator to access their accounts.
The list of compromised accounts, including passwords, circulated on security mailing lists. Some of the information was clearly the work of people trying to thwart the phisher. Names included email@example.com and a password of whorror666, but we were also able to confirm that some of the information was pilfered from real Myspace users.
Myspace said in a statement that it's an industry leader in internet safety, and went on to say some of the responsibility rests with others. "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." ®