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.

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  1. identicon
    Jodie Deutsch, 6 Apr 2010 @ 3:11pm

    Cyberbully's Being Jailed

    I find it interesting that the person who wrote this article has somehow managed to get through school and get a job but cannot distinguish between a girl breaking up with a boy and a person repeatedly being bullied.

    Ignorance like this is why nobody trusts newspapers or media in any way anymore. For obvious reasons, I will have to put this in terms that a 5 year old can understand:

    If you act like a bad person and put yourself in someone else's life, teasing them, making fun of them, harrassing them, hitting them, punching them, enticing others to do the same, etc. and the person you are doing this to doesn't beat the crap out of you but lowers their head and cries or hides, you are a BULLY. If you keep this behavior up on any kind of a regular basis (for the author of this article - regular means on a consistent level, one after the other, over and over again) and this causes such emotional conflict as to make this person want to harm themselves rather than have to deal with you - THEN your stupid butt will go to jail. You will become a member of the "I no longer own my own rectum" committee and you will deserve every ounce of the punishment that you get.

    This isn't an emotional issue. It's someone finally taking a stand against people who think they can do whatever they want and there will be no consequences. If schools would create anti-bullying policies that took away class credits if you are found guilty, then students would think twice about having to repeat a year of school for this kind of behavior and it would stop. Unless someone makes an example out of these hideous excuses for humans, then it's just going to continue over and over and over again.

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