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
    TECHNOFORCE, 2 Jul 2009 @ 8:52am

    Cyberbullying... Get a Life

    Yes, I am for laws regarding cyberbullying. I myself have been a victim for the past 3 years. I have had my identity stolen, my computer hacked, my emails monitored and jobs were LOST because of this person. I have tried on several attempts to alert someone and they dismissed it but now, that there is a name for this crime something should be done against these people. I have a person that I suspect but I do not know him by name only by the company that he works for and I have contacted them and the company informed me that they are investigating the problem.

    This person is a technical "GENIUS" and is able to tape into my home appliances, my car radio, and he has followed me to all of the jobs that I have over the last 3 years. He has obtained my email address and he has sent out photos of me to my employers. I have been to questioned by me employers regarding my after 5 activies and why I could not get to work on time. He is on this computer right now. And if this message does not get to you I will know why.

    And to those of you that have stated this is NOT a crime. You have not been a victim of this such childish schoolyard behaviour. The person or person(s) doing this should themselves go through it. What one sees as innocent fun others see has not so funny and it does hurt and harm. Megan killed herself. And she was only a child of 13. And a grown person with children of their own should not be going aroung bullying someone. Group yourself. As in the words of the song by Michael Jackson "THE MAN IN THE MIRROR" Check yourself first, before you (1) sign on the a computer, (2) script some negative words and (3)press send. As and adult you had 3 opportunities to say NO, I am not going to do this what if someone did this to my child.

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