/>
X
Business

MySpace suicide conviction tentatively overturned

It looks like Lori Drew - the too-involved-in-her-daughter's-social-problems mom whose MySpace fraud led 13-year-old Megan Meier to kill herself - will go free after all. A federal jury convicted Drew last year on three misdemeanor counts of computer fraud.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

It looks like Lori Drew - the too-involved-in-her-daughter's-social-problems mom whose MySpace fraud led 13-year-old Megan Meier to kill herself - will go free after all. A federal jury convicted Drew last year on three misdemeanor counts of computer fraud. But on Thursday, the judge in the case tentatively threw out the conviction, the L.A. Times reports. The dismissal isn't final until the U.S. District Judge George H. Wu issues a final ruling.

U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien bemoaned the judge's decision: "We call it cyber-bullying and we don't have a law to address it," he said at a news conference. The original prosecution under computer fraud laws was based on the idea that by creating a fake MySpace persona - one "Josh" - Drew violated the site's Terms of Service, and thus her misdeeds could be prosecuted as computer fraud. This worked on the jurors but the judge apparently felt that the prosecution failed to show that she created the account with the intent of harassing Meier.

"The implication was that anyone on the Internet would be a criminal if they filled out a website registration using a fake name or using the wrong age," said Matt Zimmerman, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "And I think that was a path the judge was not terribly interested in going down."

Missouri prosecutors declined to prosecute drew since there was no state law against cyberbullying. That's when the U.S. Attorney picked it up under the computer fraud theory.

So how to deal with the problem? Congress might have to step in with new laws.

"Ultimately I think Congress has to deal with this issue," said former Assistant U.S. Atty. Laurie Levenson, now a professor at Loyola Law School. "The challenge is to draft legislation that . . . isn't so broad that it chills people's 1st Amendment rights and is enforceable."

Editorial standards