Congressional Rep Wants To Put Internet Trolls In Jail

from the well,-that's-an-idea dept

Last year, the lawsuit against Lori Drew got plenty of attention. It involved the sad story of a girl, Megan Meier, who ended up killing herself after a "friend" she met on MySpace ended their friendship in a rather rude fashion. It later turned out that the "friend" wasn't a real person, but a made up individual, created by a former friend of the girl, that girl's mother (Lori) and an employee of Lori created the person (they claim) as a way of finding out what Meghan was saying about Lori's daughter. The whole story is quite sad, obviously, and suggests incredibly poor judgment on Lori's part. However, was it illegal? The initial analysis was not at all. However, prosecutors then twisted computer hacking laws to charge her, and she was eventually found guilty of misdemeanor computer hacking for creating a fake person on MySpace. This ruling was troubling for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it's now quite easy to make anyone a criminal via terms of service. Also, the fact that it actually is likely to put more kids at risk.

That particular case was distorted by a few issues, involving the fact that Lori was an adult while Meghan was a child. If the MySpace friend "Josh" had been a real teen, would the same outrage have happened? I had a friend in high school kill himself after his girlfriend dumped him. Should she have been charged with a crime?

However, with emotional cases, come bad legal precedents and bad laws. Missouri (where this happened) already rushed through an "online harassment" law, and now it looks like we may get the federal equivalent. Rep. Linda Sanchez has introduced a cyberbullying law (named after Meier) that could put people in jail for up to two years for online communications "with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person... to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior."

Yes, this effectively makes online trolling a crime. It's difficult to see how this gets past even the most basic First Amendment review, but that won't stop politicians from grandstanding over it.

Filed Under: cyberbullying, felony, lori drew, megan meier, trolls

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  1. identicon
    Troll Ruiner, 9 Apr 2010 @ 7:00pm

    Trolls. Not the mythical creature or those dolls with fuzzy hair. Trolls. Those nasty hecklers who do nothing but annoy and launch asinine diatribes against bloggers, discussion board members, chatrooms, etc… If you’ve been around the Net for quite some time, you know who I’m talking about. They can be really irritating or at times, threatening. This is particularly true ever since the Kathy Sierra account on trolls threatening her came out huge in the blogosphere.

    Computerworld has this great article on dealing with trolls and cyberstalkers. It cites some great advice (5 ways) to defeat those nasty trolls but here’s my take.

    Remember your Miranda rights

    Particularly the portion “whatever you say or do may be used against you.” While no one’s actually under arrest, it pertains to you. The Web’s an open space where anything you put online gets associated to you. Trolls can be really nitpicky. They can use anything and everything you post against you. So be responsible for whatever you post online.

    Know the troll

    Spamming troll: Posts to many newsgroups with the same verbatim post.
    Kooks: A regular member of a forum who habitually drops comments that have no basis on the topic or even in reality.
    Flamer: Does not contribute to the group except by making inflammatory comments.
    Hit-and-runner: Stops in, make one or two posts and move on.
    Psycho trolls: Has a psychological need to feel good by making others feel bad.
    I’ll add one:

    Grammar/Info Nazis: Those people who just can’t live without pointing out your inadequacies like grammar lapses. While corrections are much appreciated, these trolls make sure to make you look stupid.
    “Don’t feed the troll” (DFTT)

    Simple and surefire rule. Trolling is a cycle. Fight fire with fire and you’ll surely have a maelstrom of nasty comments swirling here and there. Trolls feed on your reactions. Giving them less reactions to feed on may cull the matter quickly.

    Put comments under moderation

    If you run a blog, try to hold comments under moderation. This way you can approve or disapprove of inappropriate comments before they show up for the general public to read. A word of caution though, take valid criticism as they are. Don’t be overly sensitive to mark those with sound arguments as troll comments just because they go against what you stood for. Debate is healthy.

    Ban them

    If you have persistent trolls, you might just want to block their names, e-mail addresses, or IP addresses. This way they will not be able to wreck havoc as they please. Engines like WordPress allows you to only allow comments from sources whose comments you’ve previously approved.

    Monitor troll activity

    Being vigilant is always a great thing to do. Don’ just delete their comments in an instant, you may want to save copies of them as evidence just in case things can get really mucky. Keep track of the post, the username, the IP address, timestamp and relevant posting details of the matter. One time, in a mailing list, we found out that a troll was actually a member’s vengeful ex by cross-checking IP records with previous e-mails to that member

    Since you got a troll posting everyone is a troll. Which by the way I gotta say to them right now . People who is posting stuff on trolls and real information on them is those who stop trolls there is a huge difference between trolls and troll stoppers hun. Here's what they want they want to try and start a fight/flame this site with stupid and immature first grade stuff. Trolls will say troll stoppers are the trolls. Really they are not by far the one who's a troll is the one like by stenoslouch. I don't that was a threat either. I think when people say would you like to go to jail? It means they are telling you to stop. If you don't. Then you will be reported for trolling as well as harassment. Which could send you to jail. Alot of people do report and tell trolls even ask them if they'ed like to be locked up. We should. It puts the fear of god in some. They need to learn you don't go around flaming and starting fights with total strangers especially troll stoppers.

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