Woman Convicted of Computer Fraud After MySpace Taunts Leads to Young Girl’s Suicide

The woman accused of using MySpace to bully a vulnerable teenage girl who subsequently killed herself has been found guilty of three misdemeanor charges. Lori Drew created a fake MySpace profile in the name of Josh Evans and used the persona to flirt with a thirteen year old girl named Megan Meier, who her daughter had previously fallen out with.

After weeks of flirting Drew then sent her message which said: “You’re a shitty person, and the world would be a better place without you in it.” About 20 minutes later, Tina Meier found her daughter hanging from her belt in her bedroom closet. She died at the hospital the next day.

The jury acquitted Drew of several felony counts of unauthorized access to computers in order to inflict emotional distress on 13-year-old Megan Meier. Drew faces a possible sentence ranging from probation to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for each misdemeanor count. She could have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the felony charges.

The case was heard in Los Angeles because that is where the MySpace servers are. The principals resided in a suburb of St. Louis, but Missouri authorities did not file any charges against Drew because they could not find a state law that she violated. The charges filed in federal court come under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which is aimed at stopping hackers from getting into secure computer servers.

The case is believed to be one of the first of its kind to use the Computer Fraud Act to address so-called cyberbullying. In using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to successfully prosecute Drew, prosecutors have established breaking a website’s terms of service as a criminal offense. The case has split legal observers with some welcoming extension of the use of the Computer Fraud Act to social networking sites. It seems that legislatures must work to ensure that harassment laws apply to the internet.

Cognizant of the shortcomings of Missouri law and determined not to be caught without the power to protect its citizens, New York’s legislative leaders introduced a new and comprehensive bill known as the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) that establishes vital protections against sexual predators so that users of the Internet can more safely surf the Web.

e-STOP, signed into law by Governor Paterson, was proposed by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo to establish vital protections against sexual predators so that users of the Internet can more safely surf the Web. e-STOP
(1) requires convicted sex offenders to register their Internet screen names with the Sex Offender Registry;
(2) allowing social networking web sites to obtain those screen names in order to prohibit those account holders from accessing web sites on which they could contact children; and
(3) mandating that dangerous convicted sex offenders who are serving a term of probation, conditional discharge or parole be prohibited from using the Internet to contact children.

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