Should the Lori Drew Cyberbullying Decision Be Overturned?

Posted Nov 29, 2008 by Barbara Sowell
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.
Image of MySpace on a computer
Image of MySpace on a computer
File photo
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 thatthe 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.