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S.F. city attorney sues MeetMe.com, saying site puts minors at risk

Sexual AssaultCrimeCrime, Law and Justice

SAN FRANCISCO -- MeetMe.com, a social networking site, is enabling predators to target minors, San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera charged in a lawsuit Monday.

Herrerra said the New Hope, Pa.-based company MeetMe Inc. was violating California laws by relying on legally invalid consent from minors age 13 to 17 to reveal their real-time locations and personal information to strangers.

Dozens of minors nationwide have been victimized by predators who found them on the networking site, and it has been implicated in several crimes involving sexual assault and illicit sex with minors in California, according to the suit.

Herrera cited the case of a Citrus Heights man who authorities said used the site to send sexually explicit photographs and text messages to girls to begin a “sexting” relationship that progressed to sexual contact. He said a Fresno man also was arrested in October and charged with sexually assaulting a minor he met on MeetMe.

The suit said MeetMe does not verify the accuracy of users’ personal information or attempt to purge known sex offenders from its registration lists.

“Anyone -- including sexual predators, stalkers and other criminals -- can sign up to use the MeetMe app and can input any birth date they want, and once they do, MeetMe enables them to browse through photographs, locations and other personal information of teenagers who are in close physical proximity,” the suit said.

Herrera asked a court to stop the site from distributing information about teenagers without valid legal consent, such as the permission of their parents, and to refrain from business practices the suit says are deceptive.

Efforts to reach a spokesperson for MeetMe were unsuccessful.

[Updated 2:08 p.m. PST Feb. 3: In a statement emailed to The Times, Geoff Cook, chief executive of MeetMe Inc., said the company does not discuss pending litigation.

Speaking about safety practices generally, Cook said the company reviews “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.”

He said the firm employs “a 24-7 team” that assists law enforcement with investigations when appropriate.]

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Twitter:@mauradolan

maura.dolan@latimes.com

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