Sunday, November 25, 2007

MySpace Teen's Suicide Spurs Anti-Cyberbullying Law

A Missouri town has passed a law to prevent cyber bulling in response to last year's suicide of 13-year-old school girl Megan Meier after receiving intentionally hurtful messages on MySpace. The new law passed for Megan is prompting awareness of the need for stronger state and federal laws to stop cyberbullying and online harassment.
More than a year ago, in October 2006, a 13-year-old school girl named Megan Meier hanged herself in her home in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri. An investigation initially revealed that Meier, who had long battled depression, committed suicide after receiving some cruel messages on the MySpace.com social networking site. The messages were supposedly from a 16-year-old acquaintance named Josh Evans.
But then the case took a dramatic twist. It turned out that "Josh Evans" did not exist -- he was allegedly the invention of a woman named Lori Drew, the mother of another girl with whom Meier had been fighting. Law enforcement authorities contend that Drew created the online profile to communicate with and harass Meier online.
But there was no case law to try Drew. But the allegation, and lack of action, has bewildered and enraged America. Virtual vigilantism has taken over. Irate bloggers have posted details of Drew and her husband Curt, 51, on the internet identifying their home and telephone number and details of their jobs, his as a manager in a local factory, hers as an ad saleswoman.
But again, there might be a law cowering this kind of behavoir, Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy lawyer and executive director of WiredSafety.org, notes one federal statute that might apply in the Meier case: the telecommunications harassment law. The law, amended in 2005, prohibits people from using the Internet anonymously with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person. Terri Dougherty, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis, declined to comment on whether prosecutors could apply the statute in the case.
News Source

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