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Girl accuses AOL chatroom monitor

London Guardian | April 18, 2005
By David Teather

He was hired to keep children in an AOL chat room safe from predators, but a lawsuit accuses him of grooming a Californian girl online and arranging to meet her for sex.

The man is accused of beginning an online relationship with the girl when she was 15. He was 23, married, and worked in a call centre in Oklahoma.

The young woman, now 19, claims to have confided in him about her parents' divorce and problems she had making friends. The conversations then became sexually explicit. The suit alleges they swapped explicit photographs and videos, and had phone sex. "The message and conversations became more and more flirtatious," the lawsuit says, "until they became downright inappropriate."

The two allegedly arranged to meet on her 17th birthday, but the encounter never happened. A colleague allegedly became suspicious and reported the man.

The woman has filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles against AOL, its parent company, Time Warner, and the monitor. It accuses the firms of failing to supervise the employee and of falsely advertising that the chat room was safe for children. She is claiming the company inflicted emotional distress.

She had been an AOL member since she was 10, the suit says, and her mother insisted she only use monitored chat rooms.

"You are truly looking at a situation where you have a wolf looking over the chicken coop," her lawyer, Olivier Taillieu, told the Los Angeles Times. It had taken her two years to file the suit because "it's a very confusing and painful time for her".

An AOL spokesman said the company sacked the man after learning of the allegations in April 2003 and reported them to the FBI and local law enforcement authorities, who notified the girl's family.

The man has not faced criminal charges over the alleged incident.

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