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MySpace Suicide


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#1
Atnevon

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Arstechnica has an article that I stumbled across today in my news feeds, discussing an ongoing court battle that really touches on a lot of sensitive issues for a lot of people. It's one of those things that really gets complicated when you try to pick it apart, and I think it warrants a good discussion as to what the law *should* be for something like this.

Because there's a lot of details to this case, I highly recommend reading the full article on it here:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080...ree-speech.html

For a quick summary though, the case involves a mother that posed as a young boy and messaged back and forth with a teenage girl that was a former friend of her daughter's. Later, after the young boy the mother was posing as and the girl next door had established a closer relationship, the online personality of the boy was turned against the girl in question, posting vulgar comments about the girl on MySpace.

Very shortly after this, the teenage girl got into a fight with her mother over her use of MySpace and committed suicide after retreating to her bedroom.

As a way to prosecute and punish the mother posing as the boy, they are trying her as though she were a hacker that had gained unauthorized access to the MySpace site. While the mother did not crack any passwords or cause damage to the server in any way, they're grouping it as the same type of crime because the mother violated MySpace's terms of service by misrepresenting her own identity in the way that she did.

The EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation), however, has come out against this type of prosecution because it believes that the courts are manipulating the law in a way it was never intended to be used, and they fear that if this type of case is allowed to set precedent, free speech may be at serious risk.

I'll be giving my views on this in a later post, but before I bias anyone with my thoughts, I wanted to see what does everyone else think should happen with this case? Where do you stand?
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#2
Sanctuary

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I read about this a while ago and was horrified.

Things like this need to be viewed on a case by case basis. The intent also highly scrutinized.

Taking everything out of the equation but these ones:

This mother was old enough to know better than to play these kinds of games with someone so young. She PLANNED to torment this young girl and she willfully executed that plan. That's intent to do harm. She wasn't protecting someone else, she wasn't just playing a game, or a joke that went to far, she intended to cause her harm with complete malicious thoughts.

She IMPERSONATED another human being to do it. That's illegal - among other things. (and one of thing that tends to really irritate me to no end!)

During her impersonation, to which the intent was to solely to cause THIS girl harm, she contributed to the death of this young teenage girl.

Should she be prosecuted. Absolutely yes.

People do all sorts of things that contribute to others committing suicide, even a harsh word can have that effect, but it this case, what stands out to me the most is that this woman was intending to do nothing but inflict harm on this girl. It wasn't an 'accident'. It was willful intention. It was planned.

The harm went beyond maybe what she wanted to cause - but it doesn't make her any less responsible for it.

On top of all that - if this were a man, and not a woman, wouldn't she be classified as a pedophile??? Why is she so special because she's a mother?

This is a grown up PREYING on a vulnerable teenage girl. It's deplorable at best.


(And for some of you who don't know - I'm a female - so this is a female making this statement - not a man.)
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#3
Shattered Skulls

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I agree with Sanctuary on this one. While the motive here was clearly not sex, the result was the same: pain, anguish, etc. D'you know how many suicides out there are due to child molestation?

This was not only premeditated and malicious; it was extremely vicious. This just goes to show that you don't need a baseball bat to fuck with someone's skull.

I may add more to this after I've had a few hours' sleep; I'm sure I could get in a good page about this kind of thing. I just don't have the energy right now.

Edited by Shattered Skulls, 06 August 2008 - 02:27 AM.

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#4
Angelika

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I have been following this case for a while, and it really bothers me.

There are two real sides to this matter. And it creates so many questions.

On the one hand, what this *adult* woman did was play with the fragile mind of a 13 year old girl, for no other reason than because she wanted to and because she wanted to “investigate” to see if her daughter was being gossiped about by Megan. In the process, things went very far, I mean, this charade continued to the point that there was a relationship between Megan and this fake boy, and to the point that Megan became so attached, when “Josh” wanted to break off the relationship, nasty things were said to Megan, and we all know the result. I find her reasoning for the stunt, lacking. She should have stepped up as the adult she was and answered her questions another way, like with communication with the girl and her parents. I think the one thing that bothers me the most is that this woman, a mother of a child, was having fun at the expense of a child, which ultimately ended with the life of the child.

Surely, the mother, Lori Drew, should be made accountable on all costs for her actions. She knew Megan had a history of mental illness, including depression and was on medication, this should have been enough in someone’s rational mind to stop and think “hm, maybe this isn’t such a good idea” At no such time, as it seems, did this cross her mind. She was malicious through and through, and had thought only for what Megan might be saying about her daughter, and when she realized how far this has gone, how to get rid of this situation. And I think it is suffice to say, she did indeed get rid of at least one aspect of this situation.

After finding out Megan committed suicide, rather than taking even the slightest responsibility, and owning up to her actions, she had the myspace page removed, and attempted to cover up. At no point, has she shown any remorse.

So, things look quite one sided, but here is the part that is bothersome to me.

Most people agree what Lori Drew did was very very wrong and that she indeed had a hand in this young girl’s death. That she was malicious and callous and I am sure, knew even a tiny little bit what *could* happen.

However, in the eyes of the law, there is no Federal law for cyber bullying.

Is Lori Drew truly 100% responsible for Megan killing herself? As basically, very basically, all she did was lie to her and say mean things. She was not technically holding the rope.


Megan’s mother knew about her mental instability. She knew about this “Josh” guy, should she have stepped in at some point during their “relationship” to tell her daughter this might not end well? Did she though? We really don’t know for sure. But that is another thing to look at. And I am sure her mother is asking herself these questions day in and day out.

Also, in another way to look at it, if “Josh” was a real boy at school, and he broke up with her, and she did this, would he be held responsible? Probably not.

Though, I know this isn’t what is really being looked at, what is being looked at is that this *adult* specifically went after a *child*. A child who, at 13, is quite impressionable, as all 13 year olds tend to be. She knew the history of the child, and yet continued on in her malicious quest to harm this child. She assumed a fake person's identity for the express purpose of targeting a young girl for harassment

What I think this case will really bring up, is freedom of speech. If Lori Drew is charged with Megan’s death, what will that say about freedom of speech? I am sure many advocates for it will certainly stand up.

One thing I really agree with is that freedom of speech also includes responsibility.

Sorry for being so long winded.

#5
Sanctuary

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Angelika, Never be sorry for being long winded. It was a good post with great thoughts.

I actually had to go to another friend and ask about the Whole "Freedom of speech" aspect - as maybe as a Canadian I simple don't get it as I don't see it being anything to do with that.

Had she written what she wrote as herself - I think at that point - we'd have to take a closer look at freedom of speech and implications to it but this case to me isn't about that, nor should 'free of speech" be used, as it often is, to allow another human being to justify this kind of cruelty. In this case it's a twisted way for people to try to get this woman off the hook. The excuse fails IMHO.


[quote]On the one hand, what this *adult* woman did was play with the fragile mind of a 13 year old girl, for no other reason than because she wanted to and because she wanted to “investigate” to see if her daughter was being gossiped about by Megan.[/quote]

There are ways to investigate this by other means - if she REALLY wanted to use a fake persona - why not use a female of the same age group etc? Get the answer - and end it there. Not that I think that would have been okay either. (The way to have done it I've listed below.)


[quote]In the process, things went very far, I mean, this charade continued to the point that there was a relationship between Megan and this fake boy, and to the point that Megan became so attached, when “Josh” wanted to break off the relationship, nasty things were said to Megan, and we all know the result. [/quote]

And if she were an adult man - a different set of charges would have been placed. What she did was predatory behavoir - however you slice it and the fact that she was a female and a mother shouldn't shield her from those consequences. It opens up a door thatI don't want to see opened.


[quote]I find her reasoning for the stunt, lacking. She should have stepped up as the adult she was and answered her questions another way, like with communication with the girl and her parents. I think the one thing that bothers me the most is that this woman, a mother of a child, was having fun at the expense of a child, which ultimately ended with the life of the child.  [/quote]

Exactly. Parents need to take control of their children. There is a responsibility factor to the schools and the parents to prevent bulling and malicious rumours from being spread. Going to the principle is an option - sitting the two girls down and hashing it out openly to get to the bottom of it are both very viable options.

When I was in school, grade 2 actually - this girl tried to push me into a ravine, (off school time I'll ahve you know) she was one of the school bullies. I pushed her into the road, a car was coming blocks and blocks away - we were both hawled into the office with our parents.

There is no justification for what she did. It was set up and designed to torment an already knowingly unstable young girl. (as you said)


[quote]After finding out Megan committed suicide, rather than taking even the slightest responsibility, and owning up to her actions, she had the myspace page removed, and attempted to cover up.  At no point, has she shown any remorse.[/quote]

Exactly, this indicates to me that she knew darn well that her actions were in part responsible for this tragedy and also knew what she had been doing was wrong.


[quote]However, in the eyes of the law, there is no Federal law for cyber bullying. [/quote]

See, this was beyond cyber bulling.

There are laws regarding relationships with minors, even online. Their are also laws regarding "interference of minors" that can reach through the Internet.

There are also laws regarding impersonation.

Think about the boy who's picture she used - think about how he might feel knowing his image was used to perpetrate this.

Having two personal cases where people have claimed to be me - I can give you lists and lists of why that's a dangerous thing and should be prosecuted.


[quote]Is Lori Drew truly 100% responsible for Megan killing herself?  As basically, very basically, all she did was lie to her and say mean things.  She was not technically holding the rope.  [/quote]

Is she 100% - no - but she was a main contributing factor. She also went far beyond just saying "mean things" to her.


[quote]Megan’s mother knew about her mental instability.  She knew about this “Josh” guy, should she have stepped in at some point during their “relationship” to tell her daughter this might not end well?  Did she though?  We really don’t know for sure.  But that is another thing to look at.  And I am sure her mother is asking herself these questions day in and day out.  [/quote]

I agrree her own mother has to take some responsibility but we don't know what the mother did or didn't do. She obviously cared enough about her daughter to recognize and have treated the metal instability. I have to assume that in showing that much care - she probably showed more.


[quote]Also, in another way to look at it, if “Josh” was a real boy at school, and he broke up with her, and she did this, would he be held responsible?  Probably not.[/quote]

I can't agree with this as it's apples and oranges and you really can't compare the two fairly.


[quote]Though, I know this isn’t what is really being looked at, what is being looked at is that this *adult* specifically went after a *child*.  A child who, at 13, is quite impressionable, as all 13 year olds tend to be.  She knew the history of the child, and yet continued on in her malicious quest to harm this child.  She assumed a fake person's identity for the express purpose of targeting a young girl for harassment[/quote]


And see this is exactly what should be being looked at which is why in my first post I ignored everything else being said and focused on what should happen and where those responsibilities lay. This, what you wrote above, is definitely one that should be looked at.


[quote]What I think this case will really bring up, is freedom of speech.  If Lori Drew is charged with Megan’s death, what will that say about freedom of speech?  I am sure many advocates for it will certainly stand up.[/quote]

I hate that freedom of speech can be used to hide behind. But again to me - this is about something different but I understand now how many people are going to try to pass it off as that - and that's going to make me cranky.


[quote]One thing I really agree with is that freedom of speech also includes responsibility.[/quote]

It should, shouldn't it. I hate all this blame shifting that goes on.

For me there is a big difference between revealing the truth and getting the truth - that could hurt someone (truth sometimes does hurt)- and going to these extremes to be malicious and cause harm.

I really think she should be charged as a sexual predator and that's for starters.
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#6
Atnevon

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A lot of great comments here from everybody here!

Now for my take on this one:

Of all the crimes out there that I've had witness to, both in person and through my past employment, the most disturbing to me were always the ones that involved manipulation on this level. It wasn't arson, it wasn't armed robbery, and it wasn't murder. It was the crimes that really really got inside the victim's head that really just grated inside.

Now, in the EFF's defense here, I will say that I do agree that this crime should be prosecuted under a different law than the one it's currently being tried for, but my reasons for saying so are far different than theirs.

Prosecuting this woman because she violated MySpace's terms of service is pure and simple the wrong way to go with this. Why? Because it puts the control over what is legally acceptable in our society purely at the hands of the website a person happens to be visiting. Say, for example, that someone stops by joe-bobs-socialnetworking-site.com and tries a similar stunt to what this woman pulled; however, the owner - Joe Bob - didn't hire expensive lawyers to make up the terms of service for his site, and there wasn't anything specific in them about this kind of situation.

If precedent is set to say that the websites people visit can control what is and is not legal on them, this opens up an extremely dangerous window for really horrible things to occur because of loose terms of service, and it puts way too much power and responsibility in the hands of site owners who should not be deciding what the law is in our country.

So, should this woman get off for what she did because it would be a dangerous precedent to set if we prosecuted her as if she 'hacked' the website she was one by violating their terms of service? My answer: Hell no! What really should happen in a case like this is that she be tried and convicted as a sex offender.

Now, some may jump in here and say that there's nothing at this point saying that sexual acts were even talked about in the conversations that were had between the victim and the woman that impersonated a young boy. That might be true, but I truly do believe that when someone creates a false persona in order to gain any kind of romantic connection with a minor (even if it's just online flirting), it should be considered a sex offense. Why? Because it is clear if they are being deceptive about who they are when dealing with someone not old enough to recognize it or even handle it in general, they are doing damage to that person on very intimate level. Just because it's emotional and not physical doesn't mean that it shouldn't be prosecutable.

We need to push for laws that make this kind of thing easier to prosecute without having to look for technicalities to try to convict people under.

If having violated the terms of service is the *only* thing that this woman can be tried for under the current law, I'm all for it, but only as a temporary solution until something more specific to this type of case is created, and at that point, she should be re-tried and convicted as a sex offender so that her record can really reflect to everyone she encounters from this point forward just what she is capable of and how dangerous she really is.
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#7
Atnevon

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A federal jury delivered a mixed verdict today convicting a Missouri mother of misdemeanor charges in a nationally watched cyber-bullying case in which the woman was accused of using a fake MySpace account to torment a teenage girl who later committed suicide.

The jurors, however, rejected more serious felony charges against Lori Drew, 49, who was involved in a hoax on 13-year-old Megan Meier. The panel deadlocked on a conspiracy count.


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-my...0,4235859.story

I honestly think this is the direct opposite of how this case should have gone. It's sad that she was not charged with felony conspiracy given the circumstances. It can certainly be argued that the girl decided on her own to commit suicide, but can you really honestly say that this wasn't largely as a direct result of Drew and the two others that worked with her to turn this girl's world upside down?
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Atnevon

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A federal judge on Thursday overturned guilty verdicts against Lori Drew, issuing a directed acquittal on three misdemeanor charges.

Drew, 50, was accused of participating in a cyberbullying scheme against 13-year-old Megan Meier who later committed suicide. The case against Drew hinged on the government’s novel argument that violating MySpace’s terms of service was the legal equivalent of computer hacking. But U.S. District Judge George Wu found the premise troubling.

“It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime,” said Wu on Thursday, echoing what critics of the case have been saying for months. “And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract.”


Source: Wired

Sadly, I can't disagree with the judge's reasoning here, as I never thought that this should be the charge that they used to convict Drew on. However, it's extremely painful to see that this woman will be able to walk away from what she did without going to prison.

My biggest hope is that the parents do go through with a civil suite and make the rest of this woman's life about trying to pay for what she did. While nothing will ever be able to fully make up for what has happened, the complete lack of remorse that Lori Drew has seemed to show for her actions and the fact that she went this far in the first place really says to me that the type of person she is, isn't the type of person we want on our planet.

Maybe that's harsh and unfeeling to say, but it's people like this that really make me sick.
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#9
Shattered Skulls

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I never did get back to this, did I? Oh, well. I'm getting to it now.

I'm awake, even! :o

:P

Okay, jokes aside...

First off, what the hell does free speech have to do with anything in this case? This is about cyber-bullying to the point of suicide, pure and simple. And how is cyber-bullying any different than offline bullying? I have been the butt of a thousand jokes that weren't really jokes. They were pokes and prods, tugs and shoves, all designed to piss me off or send me home with my balls in a sling. You know what? I got out of high school; I'm done with all that bullshit. Now we have people doing it online. That's bad enough, but now we have fifty-year-olds doing it?

That's right, fifty-year-olds. Not mothers. Not women. Fifty-year-olds. I don't give a shit if you just gave birth; doing this is the equivalent of mind control. Ever hear of psychological warfare? That's exactly what this is. There is a certain point where maternal concern for a child's well-being - mental, emotional, and physical - ceases to exist and overprotective harm can be done. That's normal, though. What this woman did was take things to the next level.

You take a ten-year-old and a bully. A few jokes, a few threats, and the kid shrugs them off. A few more, he starts to get pissed. Now assume he can't seem to do anything to the bully. The futility of his actions weighs down upon him. He feels trapped. This is where things go awry. Some ten-year-olds would do drugs, become vandals, etc. Others would simply let it happen, thinking it's their fault somehow. Still others would start lashing out, becoming bullies themselves. Point being, this ten-year-old has had enough and he's going to do something about it. That's hardly a healthy thought.

Now you take someone who's already depressed. They've already got it bad. It takes half the time to push them over the edge. But what if you give them one good thing in their lives, something they can FINALLY be happy about - and then rip it away from them? Or make it a worse punishment than the pain they're already enduring? Bullying on steroids, yeah?

Same thing here. The only difference is that it's online. So why don't we have any laws about it yet?

Because technology is moving too fast, or so the excuse goes. I know the President is a busy man, but what about the House and Senate? What will it take for them to write up a few pieces of paper saying we should do this for that crime and sentence this guy with that for the other crime and so forth?

How about this:

Any death occurring in the act of a felony is considered first-degree murder, yes?

So this woman is thus guilty of the following:

Cyber-Bullying
Impersonation
First-Degree Murder

And being a child predator. I don't know if it's technically a sex crime, but it's pretty damn close if you think about it. That's four charges right there, one of which (murder) gets her one hell of a term in prison. I say put her in with the people who beat child molesters to death for sport; see what they do to her. Perhaps put her in a male-only prison; maybe if she's raped, she'll understand what it feels like to be so totally mind-fucked that you just want to grab a rope. Then when she's been raped a few times, fry her.

Think I'm too harsh? Maybe I'm just a little more understanding of what it means to be bullied to such an extent that you're ready to blow.

Edited by Shattered Skulls, 29 July 2009 - 08:01 PM.

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#10
Sanctuary

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Atnevon, I couldn't agree more and especially about her lack of remorse.

Shattered Skulls, that's exactly it - this was a grown up. This was someone who should have known better and be setting an example for her own kids. I understand that parents want to protect their kids but she went way to far and should have be focusing on her own daughter and strengthening her to face the world. Not acting on the same level a young teenager would.

One of the things that really irritates me about parents today is that they are on the same level as their kids. They want to be 'friends' with them. Well I'm sorry but you can't be. You are the PARENT and your kids aren't suppose to like you. I watch them in stores trying to dress like their kids, speak the language and I watch the kids throw hissy fits and parents not even trying to discipline them but instead coddling them and pacifying them.

I remember getting a little older and going to my own mom and saying to her how awesome and cool she was and then asking her why she wasn't like this growing up. Her response to me said it all:

"I was the same person then as I am now - but I had to teach you. Now that job is done and I can just be myself."

I'm with you that she should have been charged as a sex offender.
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#11
Sanctuary

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It's okay to be in a bad mood. :) *hugs* We all get them.

I understand all to well. It sickens me that she essentially got away with it. I get so annoyed with people sometimes too.

It's frustrating to watch someone get hurt and see no justice done but trust me when I say - justice will find her. You can never run away from things you are responsible for. Sooner or later the universe holds us all accountable for our actions.
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#12
Starphoenix Koroias

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Sooner or later the universe holds us all accountable for our actions.


....usually. MUWAHAHAHAHAHA.... umm, yeah. What was the point again? .... *belches and passes out from muscle relaxers*

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