When you see that "Doe" in the case name, you already know that an opinion is likely to tread where you'd rather it didn't. In Doe v. MySpace Incorporated (June 30, 2009), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Eight) has the thankless task of deciding whether Myspace Incorporated is liable for sexual assaults by men that the minors met through MySpace.com. The Court framed the issue in simple terms: "Can an internet Web server such as MySpace Incorporated, be held liable when a minor is sexually assaulted by an adult she met on its Web site?" Slip op., at 2. The Court determined that the answer hinged upon application of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides limited immunity for certain content publishers.
The Court described the test for immunity under section 230:
Immunity under section 230 requires proof of three elements: (1) MySpace is an interactive computer services provider, (2) MySpace is not an information content provider with respect to the disputed activity, and (3) appellants seek to hold MySpace liable for information originating with a third party user of its service. (Zeran v. America Online, Inc. (4th Cir. 1997) 129 F.3d 327, 330 (Zeran); Delfino v. Agilent Technologies, Inc. (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 790, 804-805.)
Slip op., at 7. After examing federal authority that consistently found immunity existed in similar circumstances, the Court nevertheless discharged its obligation to examine the issue under California law:
While the Fifth Circuit‟s holding in Doe v. Myspace, Inc. is certainly persuasive, especially as it relates to an interpretation of a federal statute, its holding is not binding upon this court. Neither are the other federal precedents cited above. (Southern Cal. Ch. of Associated Builders etc. Com. v. California Apprenticeship Council (1992) 4 Cal.4th 422, 437; Wagner v. Apex Marine Ship Management Corp. (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 1444, 1451.) However, where the decisions of the federal courts on a federal question are " ' "both numerous and consistent," we should hesitate to reject their authority [citation].' " (Barrett v. Rosenthal (2006) 40 Cal.4th 33, 58 (Barrett).) Nevertheless, we must look to our own state‟s treatment of section 230 immunity to confirm the above analysis.
Slip op., at 10-11. The Court's survey of California decisions didn't reveal any basis for departing from the federal cases construing section 230, and the Court concluded that MySpace was immunized by section 230. Go hug your child. Teach them what not to do online, even if you don't understand it all that well. And pay attention to what they are doing on the internet anyhow.