Missouri Makes Online Harassment A Felony

from the laws-passed-out-of-emotion dept

Laws passed as an emotional reaction to a tragic situation are almost always bad laws. The state of Missouri has signed into law a bill to make online harassment a felony. This is in response, of course, to the infamous "Lori Drew/Megan Meier" case that has received so much attention. Of course, when you look at the facts of the case, it's not even clear if this law would have mattered. Drew didn't set up the MySpace account to harass Meier, but to find out what she was saying about her daughter. The "harassing" messages were actually sent by another teen, and weren't meant as harassment either, but as an (extremely misguided) attempt to get Meier to stop contacting the "fake" person. It's certainly understandable that people feel that something should be done, since a young girl ended up killing herself, but rushing into laws won't necessarily fix the situation at all. Also, it needs to be asked: if the same set of facts existed, but the boy who made Meier angry was real instead of fake -- would he also have been guilty under this law? If so, a lot of angry messages between kids having silly school spats are going to be court material.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 4:35pm

    That law sure doesn't seem to address the real problem of the first case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Ahhhh, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 4:38pm

    We need more shame in this society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    J Allen, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 4:38pm

    Adding "on-line" to a crime

    Harassment is against the law. Adding "on-line" or "computer" or "smoke signal" as an adjective should not be necessary.

    The technology used to harass a person should not be a factor in the existence of the crime. It may be a factor in the punishment of the guilty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 4:42pm


    Ok, I don't get how you can't see that the account was setup specifically to harass, or that the messages, the latter ones anyway, were meant to harass.

    Of course the perpetrators are going to say they weren't meant to harass because they're being charged with felonies and they want to make themselves look like fucking angels. Well I'm here to tell you that an asshole cousin of mine raped and killed a woman and now after being convicted the idiot is claiming he never made a confession(not true) and that the fact that she turned him into the cops beforehand was not in fact motivation to kill her. Yeah, right.

    Lori Drew had something in mind by creating that profile and simple reconnaissance was not at the top of the list I guarantee since there were many other methods to find that out without having to go through the bother of creating all those OTHER accounts(did you forget about that, Mike?) to build her up and then eventually trash her by calling her a whore, etc. She went through a lot of trouble to talk to Megan when she could have just as likely found one of her friends and gotten the info much easier.

    The messages play like a plot from a bad movie about con-men, how can you NOT see that, or that it's likely that is where they got the idea in the first place.

    I've seen the worst side of most people and can safely say that Lori Drew would hang if I were on the jury.

    That said, the law will definitely lead to trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Stevo, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    At first glance I read "Missouri Makes Online Harassment Fun"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Kevin, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 6:05pm

    Shut up ehrichweiss

    You're a fucking idiot.

    You don't live in Missouri, do you? If you do then I apologize. Oh wait, I don't apologize. As it turns out, Missouri doesn't have legal jurisdiction outside of Missouri, which is of course where 99.99% of Internet users reside.

    I wonder how much taxpayer money will be wasted by idiots in Missouri trying to bring charges against people that Missouri can't prosecute. Or more to the point, how long it takes before someone gets the law overturned on the basis that Missouri doesn't have the legal authority to regulate inter-state communications.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    wasnt me, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 7:08pm

    Re: Adding "on-line" to a crime

    agree with #3.

    i keep asking if the whole thing happened "offline" how what would the result be?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    AlexC, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 7:41pm

    Our courts are jammed up enough as it as.

    Kevin made another good point - "As it turns out, Missouri doesn't have legal jurisdiction outside of Missouri, which is of course where 99.99% of Internet users reside."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jason, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 9:14pm


    I wouldn't tell people that. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    andrew farris, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Adding "on-line" to a crime

    Harassment that does not cross the line into physical abuse or interference in the ability for someone to conduct their life... is not a felony. Adding a computer as the means to harass someone should not be a felony.

    The importance and newsworthiness of this 'bad law' is that it raises the penalty and effect on someone's life to be convicted of this. A felony is a very serious black mark on a person's life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 10:00pm

    The answer is to kill the children involved. All of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 1:20am


    Problem was the child at the heart of this is in her forties or fifties. Instead of teaching her kid the golden rule, not to be an idiot and play nice she committed cyber child abuse.

    I doubt she can ever live this down but twenty years of self sacrifice and good behavior might help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Tamara, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 3:07am

    Why The Opposition To This Case?

    Here was a woman pretenind to be a young boy who wanted to date a 13-year old girl. If this was a man, even without the suicide, it's clear as day he would be labeled a pedophile and jailed. Face is Lori is a piece of scum. A truly horrible person. She should not only face harassment charges but also child sexual abuse. Sending sexual messages to an underage girl on the Internet is a crime, not matter what their excuse is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    colony, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 3:52am

    whatever happened to....

    "sticks and stones......"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:58am

    Re: Why The Opposition To This Case?

    #13: I find your lack of control of your emotions and lack of foresight on this appalling. Yes, what she did was bad. Did you hear absolutely nothing about the whole community getting back at her? Her life will not be easy as is. Yes, ending with a girl committing suicide is bad. However, that does not mean that a law should be passed against it. This girl would probably have taken her own life over something else if she was in such bad shape. It just happened to end up over this reason right now. They tried to charge Lori but the lawyers even backed down because there is NOTHING to charge her with.
    People should not let emotions pass horribly stupid laws. No matter how good intentioned they seem, or for the cause. All this really is is some grandstanding by the politicians.

    Seriously, now all 10 year olds are going to start getting lawyers because there is a school bully somewhere online being a jerk. Being a jerk is not against the law. Making being a jerk online against the law is even more dumb. It is for the emotionally weak.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Wesha, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 7:52am

    So is it a felony for one virtual person to harass another virtual person over third virtual person? =o.0=

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 8:20am

    Dumbass state

    after growing up in St Louis and then moving to Texas, I know now why I will never go back. Ignorant, backwoods retards. Maybe they should focus more on their high crime rate, but I guess online harassment is much more important.

    Just go to North St. Louis and you will find more problems than they have police to cover. Wonder how many murders will happen over the holiday weekend, it must not be that big of a deal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    search tool, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 2:37am

    online harrassment

    This should be a no brainer as its must easier to harass on line that it is in real life. With the proliferation of instant messages and social media sites, harassment of this kind is easy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    bigpicture, Aug 31st, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Re: huh?

    There was no scheming there, of course not. How can you say that those actions were from the mind of a deviant? All those actions were to make a better world, and feed, clothe and house the dying children.

    Phillip Garrido had something similar to say about how he was making a better world, to quote: "You're going to find the most powerful story coming from the witness, from the victim," he promised. "If you take this a step at a time, you're going to fall over backward, and in the end you're going to find the most powerful, heartwarming story." It's all just perspective or insanity, but never life affirming with respect to the other persons life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    sarah, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 7:41am

    Re: Shut up ehrichweiss

    this law helps no one. something like this is happening to my daughter and we've gone to the police and civil and juvenile lawyers. nothing can be "proven" and no one can do anything about it. facebook and all the other social networks are very flakey about safety. the laws should really catch up with the technology. right now my daughter is being accused of being pregnant and a whore. this is a girl that has been on the honor roll her whole life and done nothing but try to help everyone. if she wasn't as strong as she is, im sure she would've had enough motivation to kill herself too. i dont know how many of you out there are parents but this horrifies me to think that my state laws could not protect my child at all.
    a girl should not have to die for the state to change laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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