Friday, November 28, 2008

Cyber Bullies & Killers: Defining Justice in Cyberspace

Hunt for Justice
by Cynthia Hunt

Megan Meier was only 13. She had a big smile, braces, and fragile eyes that hinted at the pain that adolescence often brings. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to hurt this little girl, but someone did.

The Mother’s Evil Plan

Her family’s neighbor, a mother of another 13-year-old girl, created a fake identity of a teenage boy on MySpace just so she could hurt Megan. After weeks of a fake courtship, the mother then sent a message to Megan saying, “The world would be a better place without you.”

Megan believed her MySpace crush had sent that cruel message. That afternoon, Megan hanged herself in her bedroom.

Getting Away with Murder? . . . Sort of. . . .

At first it seemed the mother, Lori Drew, would get away with these acts after Missouri law enforcement officials said she had not broken any law on their books. People across the nation were outraged Drew could get away with acts that seem criminal to any person with a lick of common sense. That’s when the United States attorney in Los Angeles, Thomas P. O’Brien, took action.

Lori Drew Convicted by Federal Jury of Computer Fraud After Bullying Teen

U.S. Attorney Fights for Justice

O’Brien, a father himself, took a personal interest in Megan’s case. Using a creative legal strategy, O’Brien asserted jurisdiction because MySpace is based in Los Angeles where its servers are located. He prosecuted Drew on computer fraud charges for creating a phony account on MySpace.

This case marks the first time the federal statute designed to fight computer crime was used to prosecute someone for abusing a user agreement on a social networking site.

O’Brien said the verdict sends an “overwhelming message” to Internet users everywhere.

“If you are going to attempt to annoy or go after a little girl and you’re going to use the Internet to do so," O'Brien said, "this office and others across the country will hold you responsible.”

The Mother Should Go to Prison

I’m not sure how strong the message is though. The jury reduced the charges from felonies to misdemeanors. Drew could face up to three years in prison and a $300,000 fine. It seems light for someone with an elaborate scheme to torture a little girl.

Reporters described Drew as emotionless during most of the trial. After the verdict was read, she left the courtroom so angry her face was red. I hope the judge sentences Drew to the maximum. Her obvious lack of remorse might help.

I remember distinctly when the Missouri officials passed on the case. Credit should go to O’Brien for working so hard at his job despite the fact lawmakers haven’t done theirs.

Lawmakers need to act to address the growth of crime on the Internet. In the meantime, I hope there are more prosecutors like O’Brien who will fight for justice. People need to take responsibility for their actions on the Internet.

Florida Teen Commits Suicide on Web Cam While Internet Users Encourage It

Last week, a 19-year-old student in Florida committed suicide in front of his Web cam while more than a thousand watched. On a message board at, Abraham Biggs (pictured below) posted a suicide note and listed the pills he was going to use to take his life.

Strangers encouraged him to take the pills.

Over 1,300 strangers watched him take the pills.

And strangers watched him die on his bed.

By the time one of the watchers finally called police to check on Andrew, it was too late.

Biggs’ father believes the Web site operators and the Internet users that encouraged Abraham must share some blame for Abraham’s suicide.

Experts say the users' comments did play a role in his suicide. I believe that all the Web users who encouraged Abraham and especially the one who told him "go ahead and do it, faggot" should face serious charges.

While Biggs’ father is hoping police can file some kind of charges in his son’s suicide, Megan’s mother is waiting for her daughter’s cyber bully Lori Drew to be sentenced. Meanwhile, the unrepentant mother-bully is asking for a new trial. I think the only new thing she deserves is three long years facing federal prisoners who will know her as the big, mean, Internet bully who hurt little Megan. She may find what it's like to face a bully her own size.


FleaStiff said...

So saying "Go take a long walk off a short pier" is lawful if said in person but unlawful if said in cyberspace? Or "You are ugly and worthless and your mother dresses you funny" is lawful in person but unlawful in cyberspace.

Its rather clear the criminal charges were artfully selected charges designed to get someone for behavior the prosecutor did not like but which was really not against the law.

FleaStiff said...

Cyberbullies are far less of a problem than SchoolTeacher bullies, Administrator bullies, etc.

Anonymous said...

I think what that mother did in MySpace is creepy, and it's sad that their typed words taunted the teen girl into committing suicide.

And encouraging the young man to go through with his public suicide was also creepy.

But criminal charges?

I don't know if crowds really encourage people to jump off buildings like they show on TV, but if it really does happen in real life, should everyone screaming: "Jump, jump", be criminally charged as well?

If someone got into a fight with a person that later took their life, should that person be charged with saying mean things that caused a mentally unstable person to commit suicide?

How would people know if someone was unstable, so they shouldn't say mean things, or else be charged with criminal charges?

Or maybe it would be safer to assume that anyone we don't know well could possibly be mentally unstable, therefor saying mean things to them is a criminal offense.

I agree that people can be mean, but I think wanting them criminally charged is an over-reaction that could possibly set up undesired precedences (I won't get into freedom of speech here, but you get my drift).


Anonymous said...

I don't know how that woman can look at herself in the mirror.

ohcecelia said...

Have you heard of this teen sister band called Truth On Earth? They have a song about cyber bullying. It tells the story of cyber bullying, and also has a take action page on thier site: that provides things you can do to help someone if they have been cyber bullied, ot if you have.

I guess 2 of the girls have been cyber bullied. They write and sing about heavy issues.
I thought their site was pretty interesting.....

A Voice of Sanity said...

The Mother Should Go to Prison

No, Judge Wu should grow a pair and toss the convictions out. The fault is his for allowing the prejudicial material to be introduced and for not stopping the case - not that federal courts are ever fair as Gerry Spence has observed. There is no criminal and no civil liability here. The only penalty allowed is that the account be canceled - anything else proves that the law is indeed an ass.

The liability is with Megan's parents. They bought the computer, paid for internet access and then failed to supervise her while she was using it. The internet is not safe for children and never will be. A bad outcome does not justify twisting the law into something it was not intended to be. Shame on the prosecutor and the courts.

Sibby said...

I remember reading about this case before the national media got hold of it. I remember thinking how this woman crossed the line by interacting with Megan via the internet, which ended so tragically. What made me think she deserved to be prosecuted in some way was that she knew about Megan and her battle with mental illness and in spite of that knowledge went ahead with playing with a teenagers emotions. This is far different from someone just saying that your mother wears combat boots and dresses you funny. She basically stalked Megan, going from real life into the cyber world. I think that is very different from saying something ugly to someone you just happened to meet in a chat room, and otherwise know nothing about them.

Lori Drew deserves whatever that court has coming to her.

A Voice of Sanity said...

If the people in her city spat in Drew's face when they saw her and the police refused to take action against them that would be illegal, improper - but understandable. However criminal charges against Drew are wrong.

When you try to hire a hit man to kill the mother of your daughter's cheerleading rival you have crossed the line. I note that in that case (Wanda Holloway) the judge found her guilty and sentenced her to ten years in prison. She was released after serving just six months of her sentence, the rest on parole. However what Drew did is not a crime and she has not "crossed the line". The convictions must be overturned.

Toolittletoolate said...

Anytime an adult insinuates themselves in a minor's life, they have crossed the line. Especially if that minor child isn't theirs. I don't see this as any different that perverts that are online looking for victims. LD deserves to be prosecuted.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Toolittletoolate said... < ... >

Then read Mothers prosecuted, punished for what they didn't do (LINK)

Legal scholars and court dockets across the nation suggest that during the past two decades, mothers increasingly have been blamed —— and prosecuted —— for not protecting their children from harm. That includes women who have been victims of domestic violence or who have used drugs while they were pregnant.

"There's the sense of a noose being tightened," says Michelle Oberman, a Santa Clara University law professor and co-author of the book "Mothers Who Kill Their Children".

"We want to try to find some way to think we're protecting children," says Benjamin Wolf, associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois. Fixing social problems is too complicated, he says. "Blaming the mother is the easy way out."
Any liability is with Megan's parents - there is no law to prosecute Drew. You cannot have prosecutors inventing special laws just because you don't like someone or what they did. That is slavery, not democracy.

Toolittletoolate said...

Laws are created and changed all the time to reflect the needs and changes of our society.

And if this is the case then why aren't parents of children preyed upon by perverts on the internet being held responsible rather than the perps? That post you copied doesn't make a lot of sense, A Voice of [In]Sanity.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Toolittletoolate said...

Oh dear. The last refuge of the truly foolish. If I referred to you as 'TooStupidByFar' would that make my argument convincing? Perhaps you could try fewer insults and more thought.

And the reason parents aren't prosecuted for allowing their children to be preyed upon is social, not logical. Responsible parent I know do not allow children unsupervised Internet access. Still, if a pedophile approaches a child in person we do see that as a crime. If one person insults another, as you just did, we do not.

Ironically, what you just did here can now be construed as a crime and you could be convicted for it. Are you happy with that result?

Criminal Lawyer said...

According to federal law and most state laws, a crime can occur without a meeting between an adult offender and a minor victim. In fact, the majority of cases involve agents posing as minors. The first (and last) time the adult defendant sees those agents is usually in court when they are testifying against the accused. What constitues the crime is the adults' intent and content of the messages sent.

marybowman said...

Unfortunately, A Heartless Voice of Insanity turned out to be right. Drew got away with torturing an innocent little girl. Nothing was done with the viewers of Abraham Bigg's suicide, and now seven boys are dead because they were bullied online and in school. Nice world, huh?

A Voice of Sanity said...

mad marybowman drooled sickeningly: "Unfortunately, A Voice of Sanity turned out to be right."

As I always am. There's a simple solution to all problems with MySpace, Facebook, Twitter etc. That is the word "No". No, you may not have an account. No, you may not have private emails. No, I will check your text messages. It is the parent's responsibility to protect the child, not to enable savagery nor stupidity.