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
    annymous, 5 Apr 2010 @ 3:15pm

    I did not know much about trolls as a teen or online predators just real-life one's. but to make a long story short. When I was a teen I thought these people were just a bit crazy or stupid & rambling non-topic issues. I use to go into chat rooms sometimes and talk about my fav. bands well there was one guy for over a few month period he was attacking everyone in the chat rooms and folllowing them with different accounts and trying to talk to us but in a bad way not friend-like at all . At the time he said he was 17 or 18 years of age. I asked why are you in the chat rooms anyway that's made for teen girls? At one point he said oh i'm 15. I said no you are not. You are about 17 or 18 were all 12 to 15 yrs. of age in here. Alot of people did agree and told him off. Few girls were crazy enough to talk to him. So he was reported for a long time and even by parents he was reported. I hope today this guy is in prison. Because he was just not some troll he was a child predator. All his accounts had rextone in them biggest mistake . People know because he always put the same name in his accounts with other letters or numbers. By law where I live he would be a predator and jailed. Alot of states he would be . Few he wouldn't. See my point? Some trolls are mentally ill and could even be child predator's. It's disgusting. Few out there are. Some are just stalkers. And even just plain nutjobs for reasons they gotta fight and attack everyone because they belong to a group. In reality they don't. They live in a fantasy world. We need to be on the look out esp. as parents. friends, etc. God forbid if one ever tryed to attack and even meet my kid. He or she would be jailed within a few minutes. I live in a small town they'ed have to call in a s.w.a.t. team also if there was one because town's people don't take kind to sick o's like that out here.

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