Indicted for MySpace bullying

A Missouri mother has been indicted on federal charges for helping set up a MySpace hoax that led to a 13-year-old girl’s suicide. Lori Drew, 49, of suburban St. Louis allegedly wanted to know what Megan Meier was saying about Drew’s daughter, a former friend. She was charged with conspiracy and fraudulently gaining access to someone else’s computer.

The indictment says MySpace members agree to abide by terms of service that include, among other things, not promoting information they know to be false or misleading; soliciting personal information from anyone under age 18 and not using information gathered from the Web site to ”harass, abuse or harm other people.”

Drew and others who were not named conspired to violate the service terms from about September 2006 to mid-October that year, according to the indictment. It alleges they registered as a MySpace member under a phony name and used the account to obtain information on the girl.

Drew and her coconspirators ”used the information obtained over the MySpace computer system to torment, harass, humiliate, and embarrass the juvenile MySpace member,” the indictment charged.

The indictment contends they committed or aided in a dozen ”overt acts” that were illegal, including using a photograph of a boy that was posted without his knowledge or permission.

They used ”Josh” to flirt with Megan, telling her she was ”sexi,” the indictment charged.

Legally, it sounds like a stretch. A teenage girl who worked for Drew has admitted she set up the MySpace account and sent the message telling Meier the world would be better off without her. But Drew will make the world’s least sympathetic defendant.

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Comments

  1. From every indication, Lori Drew is a dirtbag. With that said, what she did shouldn’t be illegal. It’s morally and ethically wrong, but it’s personal morality that the government has no business regulating. If government is to regulate this, it also has to regulate every deception between people. Even if we were going to pursue that sort of insanity, some people don’t realize what ELSE has to be made illegal for this to happen. Pretty much every sort of anonymous online activity has to be banned in order to enforce this. It’s a huge Pandora’s Box that we’re opening because people are listening to their emotions (based on justified outrage) instead of listening to reason.

  2. Margo/Mom says:

    I don’t know, David. This does edge in on some areas that are illegal as well as obnoxious, stupid and reprehensible. There is misrepresentation for the purpose of tormenting and harassing a minor. If Lori Drew was a 49 year old man who was posing as “Josh” and telling Megan that she was “sexi” we would certainly be close to illegally inappropriate behavior. It would seem as though the Myspace agreement does provide some ground. Gathering personal information from a minor is also grounded in law intended to prevent not only stalking and predatory behavior, but also selling products online to minors bearing credit card (or telephone) numbers.

    I agree that probably 95% of all potential cyber crime against minors is turned away by informed and responsible teens–but there is always a small but intensely vulnerable population of kids who are more gullible, less savvy, lonelier or more prone to impulse. And a small population of sleaze balls is always ready to take advantage.

    Lori Drew is certainly an atypical predator–but a predator nonetheless, preying on the emotional involvement of a kid too vulnerable to get away fast.

  3. Reality Czech says:

    Lori Drew claims she was responding to the harassment of her own daughter, which is backed up by others. There was no predatory intent, just a response in kind.

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    Response in kind is hardly legally defensable.

  5. Respectfully, Joanne, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch at all. If she’d been charged with homicide, THAT would’ve been a stretch. The fraudulently gaining access charge is the stronger of the two; the conspiracy strikes me as more questionable because while proving the existence of some agreement doesn’t sound like too much of a problem, it looks at first glance like a CIVIL conspiracy, an agreement to violate MySpace’s TOS. That would be a conspiracy to commit a breach of contract, not to commit a crime. But then, I’m just a lowly state prosecutor, and far from an expert on the federal computer crime statutes.

  6. Just to clarify, I agree that a civil suit by the family is warranted. I just don’t see that it deserves criminal charges.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Joanne Jacobs wrote an interesting post today on Indicted for MySpace bullyingHere’s a quick excerpt A Missouri mother has been indicted on federal charges for helping set up a MySpace hoax that led to a 13-year-old girl’s suicide. Lori Drew, 49, of suburban St. Louis allegedly wanted to know what Megan Meier was saying about Drew’s daughter, a former friend. She was charged with conspiracy and fraudulently gaining access to someone else’s computer. The indictment says MySpace members agree to abide by terms of service that include, among other things, not promoting information they know to […]

  2. […] Indicting a Missouri woman for cyberbullying sets a “scary precedent,” legal experts tell Wired. In their eagerness to visit justice on a 49-year-old woman involved in the Megan Meier MySpace suicide tragedy, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are resorting to a novel and dangerous interpretation of a decades-old computer crime law — potentially making a felon out of anybody who violates the terms of service of any website, experts say. […]