Subpoenas Issued in MySpace Fake Identity Case Linked to Suicide of 13-Year Old Missouri Girl

Subpoenas were issued to Myspace by a federal grand jury last month. The subpoenas issued are connected to the suicide of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl from Missouri. Megan’s suicide is linked to Lori Drew, Drew’s teenage daughter and Ashley Grills, Drew’s former employee who set up a fake online account under the social networking site, MySpace.

Drew, her daughter, and Grills used the identity Josh Evans, a good-looking 16 year-old to befriend Megan. Josh contacted on Megan’s MySpace account one month before her suicide with friendly messages, but the final message to Megan said The world would be a better place without you. Megan hung herself in her bedroom closet and died the same day.

The Drew family and Meier family were neighbors and lived a few blocks away from each other. Megan and Drew’s daughter were friends, but their friendship died down when in junior high school. Drew denies commenting on Megan’s Myspace page only stating that she monitored and instigated the Josh Evans account.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the investigation of Megan’s suicide may determine if making a fake online identity could constitute internet fraud under federal statutes. Federal prosecutors in Missouri have not pressed charges in this case after almost one year of investigating.

Jack Banas, a Missouri prosecutor stated that the last message was probably sent to Megan by Ashley Grills who was employed by Drew’s advertising company. In December, Mr. Banas said that he will not press charges against Drew because the Missouri harassment statutes do not address harassment regarding communication on the internet. It was not determined that Drew, her daughter, and Grills created the Myspace account to target Megan.

As a result of this type of abuse of the internet, this past January MySpace agreed to take new steps to protect children from sexual predators and bullies on its site. Under the agreement, reached with attorneys general of 49 states, profiles of users under 18 will automatically be set to private, preventing casual browsers from seeing them. Parents who do not want their children using the site will be able to submit their children’s e-mail addresses to MySpace, which will prevent users of those addresses from creating profiles. MySpace will hire a contractor to identify and remove pornographic images and links to pornographic sites from its Web site.

In New York, in an effort to bring the law up-to-date to address internet harassment, legislation known as the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) has been introduced. The law would establish vital protections against sexual predators so that users of the Internet – especially children – can more safely surf the Web. e-STOP will restrict certain sex offenders use of the Internet and updates Megan’s Law for the Internet age.

Megan’s Law refers to registries which allow the public to obtain information identifying sex offenders. New York States Sex Offender Registry helps protect families and communities by requiring sex offenders to register and providing this information to law enforcement and the public.

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