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.

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  1. identicon
    unknown, 17 Apr 2010 @ 11:44am

    by Anonymous Coward
    The problem is where do you draw the line. You can be considered a troll and should be locked up for two years. It deeply angers me that you are willing to toss out reason and logical thinking to imprison people you DON'T LIKE.

    We can't imprison people just because they are assholes and we don't like them.
















    Not all trolls are just a -holes. All though I agree just a tiny bit in some things you posted up. But most trolls are mentally ill people . Half the world does not like these trolls. Even law enforcement don't. Because some trolls can become major threats to society believe it or not.So they are just not any old a-hole you'll run across on things. They are very unstable people. And if they draw the line to become a threat then they need locked up. If they don't start blocking them . If that don't help they'll just have everyone know they are a troll and hate them. Few trolls get tired and will leave. Those that don't. Then there's ways to make them leave. (no threats)Toss them off the post or chat. After so much of tossing them and blocking. They'll get tired of it hopefully. Those who don't then we need to take a stand and let them know and stop being scared of someone on the internet that could be a thousand miles away . That goes for everyone.

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