MySpace Suicide (Megan Meier); Interesting Legal Challenges

The 49 year old woman, Lori Drew, who engaged in destructive discussions with 13 year old Megan Meier; will be charged under federal law for her acts that lead to the suicide of Megan. However, this incident does pose some interesting legal challenges.

Personally, I believe Lori Drew should be charged for manslaughter and placed on a permanent ban from using computers since she clearly misused it to deceive Megan Meier into committing suicide. But of course, the laws of today are far outdated for this type of application.

She however will be charged under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act — which is very broad in what it covers. Essentially, because she violated MySpace’s End User License Agreement (EULA). Specifically, she used falsified account information (age, name, etc.). Because of this, she becomes a “hacker,” which obviously she’s not — she’s a criminal who had engaged in a egregious amount of mischief with a minor.

Some say this is going to become a legal precedent. I don’t think so, but certainly it will be looked at when it comes to liability of crimes acted out by users and determining who ultimately is liable.

If any company should be concerned it, it should be MySpace. If a judge decides that MySpace was negligent in verifying user information, they could be forced to go through a lengthy process to verify the age and essentially, the identity, of their users.  Trust me, I don’t think MySpace has a lot of 100+ year old users; and it would lead to a huge mess. What about safety? Some people (including me) don’t publish everything that is 100% bona-fide accurate on MySpace. Of course, this would have its own legal challenges in verifying the identity of minors and essentially, MySpace could become [sic] regulated to death.

This is the problem with the court system in America. If someone doesn’t fit into the exact models of a criminal, they get off. From what I understand, I can say beyond reasonable doubt, Lori’s actions lead to the immediate and premature death of Megan. Why can’t the court system understand that?

I’m not a lawyer, so I wouldn’t know about the exact impact of this. I just hope that the Internet doesn’t become regulated from this.

  • Junkyard Willie

    I think the trend will be to regulate online activity and the Internet itself in a similar fashion to the way guns have been regulated for the last 30 years- vague legislation written by people who don’t understand the mechanics/technology based on appeals to emotion.

    It’s unfortunate, but look what’s happened to gun rights- and those are explicitly mentioned in the fu**ing Bill of Rights.

    With guns, they can only point to gangbangers killing each other over drugs, and voters can tell themselves “that will never happen in MY neighborhood!”

    But with the computer stuff it becomes a “think of the children” Everyman Issue. I mean, of course there needs to be precedent and more- think of all the child molestors on the Internet, think of the fraud and identity theft! You wonld’t vote no on these bills would you- you don’t like child molestors, do you?

    I think things will get a whole lot worse in the realm of Internet regulation before they get better. The technology is an easy target, existing or proposed laws don’t work for targeting behavior, and will never work on a meaningful scale (because criminals are concerned with only the probability of getting caught, not the penalty, in other words, nobody does a crime with the assumption that they will be caught). I mean we kill murderers in this state and yet people still do murders here.

    Legislators know this- their whole professional lives are dedicated to what can and can’t be regulated; so of course there will be more rules, and precedents, and laws, and so forth.

  • Joe

    I’m afraid you’re right. Almost any bill or statute can be passed when it’s purported to be in the same of “saving the kids.” Though I’m not entirely against USC 2257 ; I am against the method that it was enacted.

    If it was labeled “Adult Entertainment Identity Verification Act,” then I’m sure a majority of the corrupt senators would vote “nea” against it in an effort to make it to the next Playboy party with their pals in the industry. But strategically, that law was labeled the “Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act,” which of course if one was to vote against it, society (among legislation colleagues) would be quick to label you a supporter of child pornography — which simply isn’t true.

    The only problems with the ‘2257’ Act (and just about any other form of legislation aimed to absolve child pornography); is the limited enforcement inherent with the Internet. A majority of child porn comes out of places we already have poor relations with: Russia, Romania and China are the largest distributors of child pornography. The Geneva Conventions are extremely vague in this regard too, as it involves civilians; and isn’t a war-crime per se.

    The solution is to network different law enforcement agencies together and more thorough investigations to catch the actual creators of child pornography, not just the distributors. Much like the show DEA, when they coerce drug dealers to give up their sources for the “next big catch,” the same attitude should apply when it comes to catching child predators.