Saturday, November 29, 2008

Should the Lori Drew Cyberbullying Decision Be Overturned?

Young Megan Meier hung herself after she was spurned by her MySpace boyfriend. The boyfriend never existed. He was a creation of the mother of one of Megan’s classmates. The mother, Lori Drew, was found guilty Tuesday of creating a fake persona.

Lori Drew created the fake persona on MySpace to torture her own daughter’s classmate, Megan Meier. It’s hard to imagine the kind of mother who would involve herself in her own daughter’s teenage dramas, or to go to the extent of creating a false persona just to torture another child. This kind of behavior represents the worst dregs of motherhood. It is doubtful that they are many who have one ounce of sympathy for Lori Drew.

According to CNN, Lori Drew was convicted of three misdemeanor counts in the case of 13-year-old Megan Meier’s suicide that came as a result of her being criticized on the Web site

But a jury declined to convict Lori Drew of the more serious conspiracy charge in a landmark case testing the limits of cyberbullying. . .

Drew was convicted of three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on Meier.

Drew was indicted in May in Los Angeles, California because MySpace is located there. The indictment charged that Drew created an account on MySpace under a false name of “Josh Evans” and used the account to contact Meier.

With those actions, prosecutors alleged that Drew violated MySpace's terms of service by using fraudulent information to obtain personal information about a juvenile and to "harass, abuse or harm other members."

Now that the verdict is in U.S. attorney Thomas O'Brien said he will go after anyone who attempts to go after a girl using the Internet. Drew’s lawyers claim that since she never read the terms of service, she couldn’t have violated them.

According to Gigaom, the court used the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to decide that this was a federal case of “unauthorized access” because it violated the MySpace terms of service.

Gigaom goes on to point out that finding Drew guilty of a federal offense because she created a fake MySpace account is a very slippery slope.

Yes, doing so is technically a breach of the terms of service for sites like MySpace and Facebook, but those rules (which few people read anyway) are routinely overlooked. There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of phony accounts on both networks — people who have created personas based on countries, religious figures, even inanimate objects.

According to the New York Times, the Lori Drew cyber bullying case raises a lot of questions that affect anyone who uses a social networking site. No one can afford to ignore the terms of service when they agree to sign on to Web sites. The Terms of service for MySpace require users to submit “truthful and accurate” information when they register.

Andrew M. Grossman, senior legal policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, said the possibility of being prosecuted for online misrepresentation, while remote, should worry users nonetheless. . . “If this verdict stands,” Mr. Grossman said, “it means that every site on the Internet gets to define the criminal law."

The New York Times also reports that numerous corporations are “competing to develop age verification software for Web sites” to confirm a user’s identity.

Is this the end of the age of anonymity and freedom of speech on the internet? Aren’t there legitimate reasons to hide one’s name and information online?

Will there be a motion for dismissal in this case? According to the New York Times, the Los Angeles judge, George H. Wu, will hear motions for dismissal next month.


  1. She contributed to the death of a child and yet they cannot charge her with murder.

    I don't understand our system at times.

  2. I don't understand it either. Instead of going after the internet sites, they needed to go after her.

  3. Web sites have the right and duty to decide the terms under which users may participate in the activities on that site. If a site insists on people being who they say they are, and that they conduct themselves according to a set of rules, users are compelled to cooperate, and if they don't want to, they can go elsewhere.

    What this woman did was despicable, and she deserves far worse than she is likely to ever get.

  4. People say nasty things on the internet under the guise of a fake name all the time. I hope people don't think it is their right to do such a thing.

    You can't legally yell fire in a crowded room if there is no fire, this is exactly what this woman did to this young adult.

    She also lured the child into falling in love with a persona she created, she is a pedophile in my book as well.

  5. The death of Megan was coincidental. I can't make any connection between "cyberbullying" and suicide. Millions of people have engaged in hazing and being hazed and did not commit suicide. I don't think that we Internet users should bow to the wishes of one crackpot federal prosecutor who is duped by the stoopid pranks of people like Megan Meier.

  6. That the case is a federal one is not controversial, to anyone familiar with the American legal system. Since the Internet crosses all state lines, any case brought in the U.S. must be under federal jusrisdiction.

    With that said, unless there were conspirators the story failed to mention, the prosecutor was out of control in charging the woman, a lone actor, with "conspiracy," and his concern with "girls" sounds like a violation of the 14th Amendment.

    The gratest danger of such an interpretation of the 1986 law will be to freelance cyberjournalists, who must write under pseudonyms, if they want to keep their day jobs, and thus a roof over their heads.

    Nicholas Stix

  7. Something that is being missed here is MySpace defining the criminal code. Since when is lying to a private organization, whether online or not, a crime? I have no sympathy for this despicable woman, but what she's been found guilty of isn't a crime. By this standard, lying to your employer during a job interview is a crime. By this standard, lying to your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife is a crime. Where does it end?

    Oh yeah, the police are allowed to lie to you if you're questioned about a crime, but you're not allowed to lie to them. That's a crime.

  8. I really hope that Tina Meier takes her to Civil Court like the Goldmans & Browns did to O.J. And charges that sociopath with "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress" and "Wrongful Death."

    The prosecutors in Missouri completely screwed up from DAY ONE. Hopefully they won't get re-elected.

    I hope Lori Drew rots in hell, personally.

  9. Lori Drew's case is about cyberbullying, which is behavior for which society has little tolerance. Cyberbullying is poison for anyone it touches. An institution like Myspace -- or a library or a school, which provides patrons, students or guests access to the Internet -- has plentiful incentive to stamp out cyberbullying within its system and its PCs. --Ben

  10. This case was prosecuted under the "computer fraud and abuse act". This law was written to prosecute "Hackers" not people who violate the terms of service on a website. This ruling allows anyone to be prosecuted under the "CFAA" for not following the terms of service. So if you don't want to post you real name, you can be prosecuted in federal court, for not following a companies rules. There are already laws for harassment. I like everyone one else feel sorry for the young womans family, but this is not the way to press charges.