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Monday, February 3, 2014

MeetMe.com Is a Den for Sexual Predators, City Attorney Says (Update)

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Update, 2 p.m.: MeetMe.com responds (see bottom).

Original Story:

click to enlarge meetme.jpg

Hella creepers dwell on social media. At least, that's the conventional wisdom.

But, according to a lawsuit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera today, the distribution of those creepers might be grossly uneven.

Herrera's complaint targets a New Pope, Pa.-based network called MeetMe.com, which, he says, is a popular hook-up hub for strangers. It's also a den for child stalkers and sexual predators, owing to the company's lax privacy settings and willful publication of minors' photos and location data. According to Herrera's complaint, lecherous MeetMe.com users are targeting kids as young as 13.

If you're already creeped out, well, It gets worse.

It turns out that MeetMe.com served as a portal for numerous assaults and illicit sex acts with minors in California. In August, police found that a 29 year-old Citrus Heights, Calif. man had used the app to sext several underage girls, and that one of those sext-based relationships had progressed to actual contact. Other men in Fresno and Fair Oaks are facing similar charges for lewd acts with minors they met on MeetMe.

While the charges are criminal, Herrera is pursuing the company through a civil court avenue. He says that because MeetMe relies on "legally invalid consent" to collect and redistribute profile data from underage users, it violates California's Unfair Competition Law. He's asking the court for an injunction against all the anti-competitive features on MeetMe, as well as a $2,500 civil penalty for each violation that occurred within the state, plus attorney's fees.

In response to the lawsuit, representatives from MeetMe.com issued the following statement:

"We understand a lawsuit was filed today by the San Francisco City Attorney and we are reviewing the claims. While we cannot discuss pending litigation, we would like to comment on our existing safety practices generally.

"We care deeply about the safety of all of MeetMe's users. We review hundreds of thousands of photos posted to our services every day, and we compare the information provided by our users to a sex-offender registry. We employ a 24-7 team that responds to reports from our users and work closely with law enforcement when appropriate to assist in their investigations.

"MeetMe also provides a safety statement at the bottom of its website. MeetMe operates the site www.socialsafety.org as an educational resource for online safety, and provides links to it from its website and mobile apps."


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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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