Lori Drew, July 2, 2009
Laws "Vague and Flawed"
The mom convicted of bullying a teenage girl on MySpace, driving her to the point of suicide, was acquitted by a Los Angeles judge Thursday.
Last November, Lori Drew, 49, was found guilty of three misdemeanors charges for sending mean-spirited messages to a distraught teen, pretending to be a boy who no longer liked her.
She was charged under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, designed to convict computer hackers.
Drew, from suburban St. Louis, received her conviction for accessing protected computers “without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress”. Had she been sentenced she could have received a year in jail for each misdemeanor and a $100,000 fine.
A felony conviction for conspiracy could have brought her 20 years in prison.
This was the first time the law had been used to convict someone of misusing a social network site, and many legal experts said the laws should never have been applied here.
Judge George Wu agreed with Drew’s lawyers who argued the laws were vague and flawed. He said he was tentatively acquitting Drew with a written decision to be issued soon.
Laws still have not caught up with the realities and possibilities of the digital world.
In this case, Drew, a teenage accomplice, and Drew’s teenage daughter, Sarah, created a MySpace under the name of a teenage boy "Josh" who said he liked 13-year old Megan Meier.
Megan was taking medication for attention deficit disorder and low self-esteem and depression and had recently changed schools after being bullied at the school she attended with Sarah. She was apparently doing well. Then “Josh "contacted her through her MySpace. She asked her mother if he could be added as her friend. For the next six weeks they wrote as friends.
The boy then began taunting Meier saying ‘the world would be a better place without you.” Megan hanged herself in her bedroom.
Lori Drew knew the Meiers, who were neighbors, and the New Yorker reports, she knew Megan was on medication.
Neither Sarah or the teenage accomplice were charged, reports the New York Times.
The case was brought in Los Angeles because that is the home of the MySpace servers.
Megan’s mother, Tina, has gone on to establish the Megan Meier Foundation, touring the country speaking about suicide and internet harassment.
The consumer group, Electronic Frontier Foundation warned about the precedent this case could set if the terms of service were misapplied. #