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
    Jason, 6 May 2009 @ 10:11am

    Sorry for the length

    1st off I want to say that politicians in general are trash, secondly I cant find the correct ground on this issue, I am all for less government, less oversight, but this young girl (Meghan)was my neighbor, I cant get past this as I have a 12 year old daughter and have listened to how horrible girls in general are to each other at that age, boys tend to forget thank god! I guess I just cant get past a mother taking such extreme measures, IMO i believe Lori was doing much more than looking into what others were saying about her daughter..... She had intent in her heart to rectify what she felt Megan said about her daughter. I too on many occasions have nearly driven to a home to defend my daughter but resisted and tried to help her deal with it. I feel it is our obligation as parents to teacher our children how to effectively deal this issues as children, we cannot and should not jump into their lives at that level......teach, mentor, PARENT!!! I just keep thinking what if NO parents got involved in this, Megan and Lori's daughter may have not liked each, hell they may have even had a fight, but Megan would be alive, & Lori would not have been on trial and sentenced. Kids forget parents hold grudges. Lori's actions should be perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. I guess Lori has shown she is incapable of guiding her daughter to use good judgment, and I can only presume she too felt no responsibility to display any. So I guess i think she is NOT Guilty but should be put in jail for the rest of her life........

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