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


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    unknown, 22 Mar 2010 @ 11:01am

    sordidguy I was just reading up on this guy. He's a troll alright. He lies & bashes everyone just trying to start fights. He's got a buddy online & might be him. Who becomes racist etc. online towards people & He agrees to it. Then when somebody uses them therm gay or is racist. He gets mad & reports them to net services or whines about it. Were talking about a 50 year old person. He acts about 15. Unstable would be the word !!!!!!! No one believes him. Blogs going back to 06 nobody believed his lies. They still don.t Now he's going to police etc. They don't believe him either. What a shame. You lie in a 4 year period online & mostly on one account & a few others . No one will believe you. What catches him is he re-peats or has the same things in all accounts. Even goes on 2-3 at the same time everyone knows it's him. Go & tell mommy . Cyber cry baby might be a good name for him since he snitches on others & trys to start fights then whines when they say something back lol. I hate trolls. They are the most dumbest people on earth & always get caught. Look at his youtube 4 friends because he posts stuff on other people's pages that is uncalled for and now he posts bite me because they throw comments back on there. I don't think this person relizes he's trolling.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.