Last week, the City of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against the social networking platform MeetMe.com, claiming that the site “facilitates interactions among strangers, over inadequate privacy protections and unlawful publication of minors’ profiles, photos, and location data, which can enable sexual predators and stalkers to target children as young as 13 years of age.”
On its own corporate page, MeetMe describes itself as:
the public market leader for social discovery. We make meeting people fun through social games and apps, monetized through both advertising and virtual currency. Every day, we help millions of people around the world make new friends whether on the web or their mobile phones. We are committed to our mission – to build the leading social network for meeting new people.
Speaking to Vice Magazine, however, the lead counsel for the City painted a more sordid picture:
“MeetMe displays how far away other users are, and you can frequently see the person’s full name, and other personal details like public chats,” Sarah Eisenberg, the lead counsel for the City Attorney’s office, told me. That makes it much easier for sexual predators and stalkers to locate potential victims and act on that information. Yes, it’s as gross as it sounds; the City Attorney alleged that across the country there are a growing number of sex crimes that are a direct result of teenagers using the site.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this litigation as it could have much broader implications – plenty of other social networking sites are used to facilitate casual hookups and such, so perhaps other, better-known, sites may find themselves on the hook after MeetMe.