MySpace Suicide Case Moves To L.A.

A few weeks ago on CNN, I was struck by a story of a Missouri teenager who committed suicide over MySpace communications. A neighbor mother (who is obviously the World’s Most Immature Mom) posed as a fictional sixteen year old boy to harass a thirteen year old girl, and her last mean-spirited messages are credited with pushing Megan Meier over the edge into hanging herself.

This isn’t about the case itself though, so much as the novel way it is being handled, here in L.A. The Times reported earlier this week that the case is being tried as fraud, here in Los Angeles, with MySpace as the victim. Prosecutors in Missouri couldn’t find a way to prosecute Lori Drew, so prosecutors here are trying to nail her with “defrauding the MySpace social networking website by allegedly creating the false account… [using] federal wire fraud and cyber fraud statutes.” This opens up a whole legally fascinating can of worms, regarding pseudo-identities on the Internet. The Times quotes Laurie Levenson, from Loyola law school, who remarked that an indictment “could raise 1st Amendment issues and questions about how to fairly enforce such a law on the Internet.”

I agree that this could set a much bigger precedent than just punishing a bored suburban mom for tormenting a kid. Would every MySpace false identity start being tried in L.A. courts? How would any of this apply to anonymous bloggers, or bloggers who write under false identity? It could end up a defining legal case for the Internet, something that college students study in constitutional law years from now. And is it really worth using the L.A. legal system to try this Missouri case? I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

5 Replies to “MySpace Suicide Case Moves To L.A.”

  1. Oh man, that’s looking kinda scary to me! Why do all the nuts have to mess it up for those that just want a bit of privacy? Maybe I should just cancel my account now.

  2. This is an interesting case and one I have watched for a while. When I first heard of it I thought it the most vile thing I had seen done to a child in a long time.

    This wasn’t a bored suburban Mom, rather a vindictive one with some serious dillusion problems who went after the kid first to see what was being said about her own daughter, then deciding to exact some sort of revenge created this fictional boy to feed on any kids desire to be accepted only to pull the rug out in the meanest way she could. Completely wrong on so many moral levels.

    That is where the problem lies, MO has no criminal statutes to make it criminally wrong.

    Moving it to the Federal Realm is more of a last ditch effort at some justice. The wire fraud and cyber fraud are interesting attempts to punish the evil mom.

    As the article you linked too what concerns me is protecting the use of pseudonyms. We have historical precedence “publius” and “Silence Do Good” for one where they were whistle blowers of the day who had to keep their true ID secret. Aside from that what harm is there really in some of the cute screen names people use when there is no intent to defraud anyone? Nicknames are another from of pseudonyms, do we really those regulated?

    Personally I think the child endangerment, annoying a child and other statutes would be better used to address the heinous activities of Mrs Drew. Regardless of the methods used, what was done certainly would fall under those crimes.

    Just my two shiny copper bits in the morning.

  3. The sad case here was a child suicide, and everything that has happened since will do everything BUT prevent more suicides – in short, people are latching onto the foolish notion that a suicide can be blamed on anyone besides the person who takes their own life.

    Here’s where any energies should be applied, instead of tying up Federal Courts:

    -Take another look at child depression, and its root causes. Was she on medication that may have led her to act irrationally?

    -Parents should think twice about allowing children to have private access to the internet. Keep the damn computer in an open space. ESPECIALLY if you know your kid is depressed or troubled (even if they’re Grade A students I’d advise against it).

  4. The whole kids and privacy and the internet thing is hard (as I write this, my 7 year old is in her room looking at Hanna Montana stuff on the internet). How much space do you give them and how much should you know about what they are doing and all that. As I understand it, this girl suffered from depression. And kids committed suicide before the internet and myspace, (a friend of mine tried to kill her self when we were 14. Pills and booz. She called me to say good by. I told my mom, my mom called the cops. My friend was saved. Her parents did not have ea clue that their daughter was “sad”). I don’t think it is cool to pull a Dr. Phil and blame Myspace. (But I would like to see the evil mom stoned to death).
    I don’t what to blame the dead girls’ parents, but I for one will learn from this and look for all indicators of depression.

  5. Why do all the nuts have to mess it up for those that just want a bit of privacy? Maybe I should just cancel my account now.

    Yeah, you should – who the hell opens a myspace or other internet ANYTHING in pursuit of privacy? There’s lots of ways to stay private in the world. Very, very few involve the net and its tubes of open access. How silly.

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