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
    unknown, 7 Apr 2010 @ 3:25pm

    stupid politicians
    by Anonymous Coward
    " I had a friend in high school kill himself after his girlfriend dumped him. Should she have been charged with a crime?"

    LOL

















    No ! I don't find that funny. It's disgusting actually ! You are posting about your friend on here & Just made yourself look really bad & like a troll. By the way you are not a very good friend then if you laugh at something like that. Are you that twisted & evil as lori drew is? god ! Some people need to seek mental health. Esp. trolls. And this is totally different. This is an adult who was talking to a underage person pretending to be a teen themself. So you and a few others have no idea what you are really asking or talking about. Death is no laughing matter. Would you like for someone to laugh at you or a family member etc. When one is gone? I doubt it. We all gotta go sometime. Death is no joke. Esp. somebody who killed themself is no laughing matter. I had buddies/family who killed themself over things. Because these people also need some sort of help themself. You need help. Ten times more of it.

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