Why The Lori Drew Ruling Could Put More Kids At Risk

from the perverse-incentives dept

We have some serious problems with the implications of the ruling in the Lori Drew case, where Drew was found guilty of computer hacking, because a fake MySpace profile (which she did not sign up for) was blamed for the suicide of a young girl. However, Bennett Haselton, over at Slashdot takes on another problematic aspect of the case: how the ruling creates perverse incentives that could lead more kids to harm themselves. That's because Drew was punished not because of her own actions, but the actions of Megan Meier, possibly due to what Drew (or others) said to her. As such, the ruling effectively says that if a kid does something bad enough or dangerous enough, it's fine to blame someone else for saying something to them. That means if there's a kid who wants to punish someone for saying something mean to them, they can try to kill themselves, and then blame whoever said something mean to them, recognizing they're likely to get punished. It creates dangerous incentives when your punishing someone based on the actions of the actions of someone else.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    Obvious Troll, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 2:55pm

    Is obvious

    And parents are usually held responsible for their kids actions. Pet owners for their pets.

    Kids are dumb. I know. I am one.

     

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    abba12, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    manslaughter charges would have prevented that because the kids would actually have to die for it to be effective

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Let's not forget, this was done on Drew's computer with her consent and encouragement.

     

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    mslade, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 4:12pm

    Haha

    At first I thought this article was serious.

     

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    mslade, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 4:17pm

    Besides...

    Doesn't this happen already? There's plenty of incidents of people (kids on up) making up crimes for one reason or another. An angsty teen just has to say "Dad molested me", regardless of facts, and *poof* revenge has been had.

    Yeah, this isn't introducing anything new. There will always be stupids (children, teens, adults) exploiting the nation's sense of moral outrage.

     

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    Supply Guy, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 4:46pm

    Didn't I see this once a few years back? Ohhh yeah.... This is old news. Arthur Miller already wrote a book about this already.

     

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    Rose M. Welch, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 4:54pm

    I think that's dumb, but there's another plot twist:

    If it becomes known that she was being prosecuted for computer fraud because she wasn't who the profile said she was, then kids might start telling the truth about who and where they are online, right down to real names, birthrates, etc.

    So much for the safety on anonymity.

     

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    BornSlippy, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    Blame-shifting is an age old technique, as is badmouthing, truth-skirting, manipulating, obfuscating, and outright lying. Teh intarwebz just provides another avenue to perpetrate these all too human failures of character.

     

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    Mike, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 5:27pm

    Government sponsored revenge.

    This whole thing is a bit ridiculous, we all know Lori Drew is a bad person, but she didn't do anything illegal, and if the kid was going to kill herself, it would have happened whether or not the Drews were involved (and the kid that killed herself was no prize either if you read the transcripts) But creating some ridiculous charge to "get her however they can" is wrong. I would however like to see her parents (the dead girls) take some responsibility, as this whole mess could have been prevented if they would actually have been a little more involved in their childs life. Yes it is the PARENTS fault, it always is when it involves a child.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 6:51pm

      Re: Government sponsored revenge.

      She deserved to get sentenced for something- this was the best the prosecutor could come up with. In the old days Lori Drew would have been put in the stocks for a few days and pelted with things.

      The best sentence I can come up with is having to live with herself after girl killed herself and knowing that she had something to do with it.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 7:46pm

        Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

        "I would however like to see her parents (the dead girls) take some responsibility, as this whole mess could have been prevented if they would actually have been a little more involved in their childs life. Yes it is the PARENTS fault"

        Truth.

         

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        Eldakka, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 9:49pm

        Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

        She deserved to get sentenced for something- this was the best the prosecutor could come up with.

        If she didn't do anything illegal, why did she deserve to get sentenced for anything?

        I just do not understand this attitude of blaming someone else.

        Shit happens, get over it.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 11:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

          >Shit happens, get over it.

          The problem is that Lori Drew was the Laxative.

          She should be pilloried, humiliated and otherwise totally shamed. This is Olympic class bad judgment. She should be the picture in the dictionary next to stupid.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 11:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

            "She should be..." ?

            According to which law are YOU getting this, "She should be..." from?

            The law that says that parents should be responsible for their own children? Oh. right. there is no law that says that.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 7:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

              The Objective Moral Law, which he has helpfully deigned to interpret for us. Democracy and due process just get in the way. A child died, someone has to take the fall.

               

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        Moron Blaster, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 7:52am

        Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

        Anonymous Idiot...

        You Said...
        "She deserved to get sentenced for something- this was the best the prosecutor could come up with. In the old days Lori Drew would have been put in the stocks for a few days and pelted with things. "

        Cool... so you do something bad... or maybe just something to piss me off and you deserve to be sentenced for it? Regardless of if there's a law? Cool... so you run a stop light and cause an accident... so I should charge you with drug trafficking...?!

        You also said
        "The best sentence I can come up with is having to live with herself after girl killed herself and knowing that she had something to do with it."

        As long as you don't make up charges or twist the law. A VERY, VERY dangerous prescedent was set - basically, the federal government said:

        "If we don't like you, or like what you did, we will create a charge or twist and existing law so we can get you..."

        It's all fine when someone does it to a sleeze bag like Lori Drew... but about...

        You're black in a predominantly white community - should they be able to twist the law and prosecute you for something you didn't do?

        Let's say you're a Indian resident, but someone thinks you're a terrorist and their buddy died in the 911 attacks... forget the fact that you aren't a muslim... should they be able to make up a charge or twist a law to "get back at you?"

        If anyone should be punished... it's idiots who see this ruling and malicious prosecution as a good thing.

        Crime: Idiocy
        Punishment: Sterilization

         

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        Rose M. Welch, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re: Government sponsored revenge.

        I think what you mean is that she deserved to be 'punished', not sentenced. And she certainly was punished in the court of public opinion. Trumping up charges puts all Americans at risk. Do something somebody doesn't like, go to jail for whatever reason.

        This country is supposed to stand for the majority AND the minority, not the majority over the minority.

         

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    Mark Regan, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 6:56pm

    That's Not a New Concept

    I was the oldest boy in the family and had FIVE SISTERS and three brothers. Whenever I'd say ANYTHING to one certain sister, she'd HOLLAR -- "Mom, Mark's being MEAN to me" and I'd get into a LOT of trouble with my mom (no right to trial, no right to an attorney, no right to confront witnesses) and then when my father got home, I got the "Punishment" (usually a chair or broom broken over my back.)

    What's new about some kid complaining about WORDS? Whatever happened to the saying "Sticks and Stones can Break My Bones, but Words will Never Hurt Me?"

    Get a life, folks. Words an go in one ear and out the other, or you can use them to drive yourself batty. It's your choice, no matter whether you are 2 or 20.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 6:05am

    If kids actually try to kill themselves in order to shift blame onto another party...well, the ones that succeed in killing themselves will be further examples of the survival of the fittest process.

    Cold, I know, but I have no sympathy for this kind of stuff. If you want to kill yourself, I say go ahead.

    However, this "look what kids will do now as a result of X" line of argument is a huge stretch bordering on a logical fallacy even.

     

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    Frankenskid, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 6:20am

    Who's to blame for the eggs? Gravity or the person that pushed them off the table?

    Seriously if someone gets treated that way online, and realyl cares about that person's opinion (real or not) and they suddenly start telling them they are the lowest POS, and the kidk ills themself because of it, someone has to be held responsible, and I think the one who enabled it should be.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 7:07am

      Re: Who's to blame for the eggs? Gravity or the person that pushed them off the table?

      Why is the kid not responsible for their own actions?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 7:40am

        Re: Re: Who's to blame for the eggs? Gravity or the person that pushed them off the table?

        Because they're a kid, stupid. When kids break the law they're held to a lower standard. At worst their parents are held responsible.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Re: Who's to blame for the eggs? Gravity or the person that pushed them off the table?

          If Bobby brings a gun to school and kills someone, he's tried as an adult and held responsible for his actions. Why should that be any different if he's his own victim?

           

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    known coward, Dec 18th, 2008 @ 9:13am

    the original article sucks

    The article itself is a bad article, I do not think megan miers reward is the torment of lori drew, after megan is dead. Megan is kind of out of the picture here.

    If you say to someone everyday "kill yourself", and eventually that person does, i believe in some jurisdictions you would be guilty of a crime. I do not see how the net would be different.

     

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    Bill, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    TINA MEIER

    There have been a few references to parental responsibility in the postings here. In so many posts there are none. I believe that Tina failed her daughter miserably and the consequence was the death Megan. Tina approved and encouraged her daughter getting onto a website that she was too young for and allowed her to engage in a "relationship" with "Josh". Josh turned out to be someone he didn't advertise. Not the 16 year old home schooled but the concoction of Ashley grills and or Lori Drew and or her daughter. Could have been a 49 yeard old pedophile but Mom needed someone to give her some relief form the trials of raising a depressed and medicated 13 year old. And "josh" filled the bill. I have young teen granddaughters. NO CHANCE they strike a relationship up under any circumstance that their Mom & Dad don't know exactly who the person is. Tina does her job there are no spite messgaes and maybe Megan is still here. Maybe not. We'll never know.

     

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    veronica, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 1:38pm

    um, think about it, mike...

    um, think about it, mike... there's nothing new or contradictory in this ruling. if you leave a loaded gun out and a couple of kids find it and someone gets shot, you're in a lot more trouble than if the kid turns it in to his mom.

    the amount of damage someone's stupidity causes always has been factored into the punishment, and always should be. upholding this verdict won't create a police state. how many people have you killed with your phony internet names? I'm guessing zero.

     

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    whatever, Dec 21st, 2008 @ 6:29pm

    responsibility

    Just another example showing how Americans are unable to either accept that bad things happen and nobody is to blame, or to accept responsibility for their own actions rather than try to blame someone else.
    It's endemic. It's why your society is so litigious. It's always someone else's fault and someone else has to "pay".
    Look at that Australian guy who was *invited* by a town (in Tennessee) to race at an event *they* organised (badly, it would seem). He raced, he crashed, several people died. There was very little in the way of safety barriers between the crowd and the racers. It was a horrible accident. What happens? He gets tried for vehicular homicide on so many counts he could be in jail for 90 years. That got downgraded, but now he faces a civil suit. One of the victims' parents said "He killed my child; that's murder". Umm, no, it's not.

    Yes it's sad that a young girl took her own life, yes it's appalling behaviour on the part of the adult who should have known better, .. but good god .. it's just a horrible, tragic event, and life is, unfortunately, full of them.

     

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    STEPHANIA, Dec 22nd, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    lori drew

    ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY!!! BLAME THE DEAD CHILD? BLAME THE PARENTS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!! SOMEONE IS DEAD BECAUSE OF LORI DREW'S ACTIONS.SHE STARTED THIS, AND SHE OBVIOUSLY FINISHED IT. POINT BLANK!

     

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