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, 4 Apr 2010 @ 12:15pm

    I seen sordidguy 's posts And reported them. You got trolls everywhere. He is hated & one of the worse one's on aol & youtube . He would come on posts & follow people stalk and harass them. If he thinks he's loved he's sadly crazy and making a huge mistake. He loves fights & to stir up rumors online about people. were t6alking about a 50 year old man who trolls. Get this ! he's had so many reports most sites done hit delete on his stuff & It is no longer online. He's banned for a while. Everyone calls him stupid. Reality is he's a nutjob and one who could just be an online predator. He accuses people of false stuff like that. So I wonder if this dude is really over weight and a predator since he wants to accuse everyone of being so on websites. Even though he has no idea about them. Hopefully the FBI done arrested him & Gives him his crazy meds. People who go on and on are Skitzophrenic or even Paranoid. Other words. Psycho Path ! I'll tell you trolls right now you'll be hated in prison if you turn out to be any kind of predator.

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
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

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.