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Originally published February 3, 2014 at 4:29 PM | Page modified February 3, 2014 at 4:41 PM

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San Francisco claims website puts minors at risk

The city of San Francisco on Monday sued a popular social-networking website, claiming it enables sexual predators to target minors.


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SAN FRANCISCO —

The city of San Francisco on Monday sued a popular social-networking website, claiming it enables sexual predators to target minors.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the lawsuit against MeetMe.com saying that the site violates California laws by unlawfully publishing personal information such as profiles, photos and real-time locations that enable sexual predators to target children as young as 13.

The lawsuit said dozens of minors nationwide have been victimized in sex crimes by predators who relied on information obtained through the website of the New Hope, Pa.-based company.

The prosecutor said that about a quarter of MeetMe.com's 40 million users are under the age of 18.

"MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company's irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it," Herrera said in a statement.

MeetMe CEO Geoff Cook said the company cannot comment on the pending litigation. But he noted the company has online safety programs and works with law enforcement.

"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," Cook said in a statement. "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."

The site has been implicated in several crimes involving sexual assault and sex with minors in California, Herrera said in his complaint.

The lawsuit cited the case of a 29-year-old Citrus Heights man who was charged with multiple counts of sexual acts with a minor in August. Authorities said the man used the site to send sexually explicit photographs and text messages to teenage girls to begin a "sexting" relationship that led to a sexual encounter.

Also, a 23-year-old Fresno man was arrested in October on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor he met on MeetMe.com, and a 21-year-old Fair Oaks man was charged in July after he allegedly pretended to be a 16-year-old boy on the site and had sex with two girls, ages 12 and 15, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is seeking to stop MeetMe from promoting underage users' information and to refrain from practices considered deceptive.



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