Social networking sites all over the web are breathing a huge sigh of relief this morning after MySpace triumphed in a landmark lawsuit. The parents of a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted by a person she met on MySpace sued its owners for negligence.
But yesterday the case was thrown out of the federal courts by Judge Sam Sparks. He said: "To ensure that website operators and other interactive computer services would not be crippled by lawsuits arising out of third party communications, the Communications Decency Act provides interactive computer services with immunity."
The girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was sexually attacked by a 19-year-old man she met via the MySpace web community.
Crucial to the case's dismissal was the fact that the girl in question lied about her age. She fooled the man into believing she was 18-years-old - five years older than she actually was at the time. MySpace forbids anyone under the age of 14 to even sign up to the site.
But the girl's family said that MySpace's failure to provide safeguards against age deception was a danger to the site's large number of teenage members.
Rival sites such as Facebook and Bebo will be very happy to see the law in America upheld in defence of social networking sites. Had the case fallen the other side of the wall, the floodgates might have opened, inviting a flurry of similar cases and potentially threatening the future of such services.