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, 20 Apr 2010 @ 9:16pm

    Now alot o us know what will happen when trolls are reported or gets arrested. They run and hide. They'ed hide under mommy's skirt thinking she could save him or her. Nothing will save you from being arrested or reported or even hated on the web for trolling. You trolls just never get it. Just keep on making yourself look foolish and immature and even worse they get caught up in alot of lies and other things. I found out a few online trolls were known felons and some have been arrested. These types of people just have nowhere else to go and does not care to go back to prison where they belong. Or even in a mental hospitial. Where ever they may have been. Our system needs to stop letting them out for godsake ! Other countries don't put up with that nonsense they take stuff into there own hands sometimes. They have punishements much more harsh. I wish sometimes America was like that. Maybe people will think twice then and won't do stupid stuff again including trolling. They are punks anyway thinking a computer can save them or there mommy. Only things that will save trolls is by being locked up or being put on alot of meds to keep there mind set straight and control it to a point where that part says stop . (thinking)

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