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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
    YOUTUBE USER, 4 Oct 2010 @ 11:24am

    sordidguy is a topix, aol, youtube troll. If I could I would get my hands on him I would. He ruins threads with his stupid bs. Thinks he’s smart & not. The police & fbi can trace your ip’s . What he don’t know is once you reported they watch you on every website. The more proof they got they can lock you up. Even if it takes 5 months there watching you. They got more proof to get locked up for a long time. He’s nuts & yet claims he’s not and not a troll. The dummy ruined my page on youtube. I been watching his threads and laugh at just how stupid he is. I knew a guy who was watched 2 yrs. and got locked up in federal . He’s facing 10 years max ! Now days They watch you for few months or days eve, Because cyber bullying/stalking laws has went into effect in just bout every state.

    sordidguy: These 2 sluts should die.

    Those sluts you talking about right there are my 2 teen daughters and they aren’t sluts idiot.

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