More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Mom lobbies for tougher web harassment laws
By Christopher Leonard
Tues., Dec. 18, 2007

Meier's 13-year-old daughter killed herself after being teased on MySpace

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The mother of a teenage girl who committed suicide after being taunted online urged a state task force on Internet harassment Tuesday to recommend criminalizing such behavior.

Gov. Matt Blunt formed the task force in response to the death of Tina Meier's 13-year-old daughter, Megan, who killed herself last year after being teased on her MySpace page by a fictional teenage boy named "Josh." A neighborhood mother and two girls played a role in creating the hoax because they wanted to keep tabs on Megan's gossip.

"I can start MySpace (accounts) on every single one of you, and spread rumors about every single one of you, and what's going to happen to me? Nothing," Tina Meier told the task force at its first meeting here. "People need to realize that this is 100 percent not OK, that you're going to go to jail."

A local prosecutor decided Lori Drew, her daughter and a teenage employee did not violate state laws against stalking, harassment or child endangerment. Drew's attorney Jim Briscoe has said the children designed the account and sent the messages to Megan. Drew wasn't aware of the hurtful messages sent prior to Megan's suicide, he said. A few other Internet users joined in with cruel taunts before her death.

The task force, which includes legislators, academics and law enforcement officials, hopes to have a draft law written to submit to state lawmakers when they convene in January.

A member of the panel, University of Missouri law professor Doug Abrams, said U.S. courts have largely upheld the right of people to say things anonymously, whether on the Internet or a street corner. But it could be constitutional to outlaw using fake identities online to harass someone or solicit sex.

Lawmakers could "make it a misdemeanor to misrepresent the sender's identity. ... That's what goes on in a lot of these cases," Abrams said.

Industry groups are not necessarily opposed to new regulations, said MySpace lobbyist William Guidera, who is a task force member. For example, Internet companies supported passage of a law that makes it illegal for someone to lie about their age when setting up a sexual encounter online, Guidera said.

"Is there a silver bullet? No," Guidera said. "Are there multiple areas where you can be innovative to prevent this sort of thing? Yes."

Any law proposed by the task force would likely build upon existing legislation, said Mark James, director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety and chairman of the task force. A bill that would ban online harassment already has been filed in the state Senate.


I agree that something should be done.. Especially since a PARENT was involved in this whole setup, she should be on her way to the slammer. Very tough when you are dealing with unknown and known people on the internet..

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
In this particular case, although there is no law on the books to permit charges to be laid against the family responsible for the harassment and the eventual suicide of the young girl, it appears that a certain community justice arose spontaneously. The community as a whole has shunned that family and at last report there was talk of them moving out of the neighborhood.

There's a certain justice in that, although it won't compensate the family who lost their daughter.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
MySpace Is Said to Draw Subpoena in Hoax Case

MySpace Is Said to Draw Subpoena in Hoax Case
January 10, 2008

LOS ANGELES ? A federal grand jury here issued subpoenas to MySpace and others last week in connection with the suicide of a 13-year-old Missouri girl after she received cruel messages from people posing as a teenage boy on the site, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Thomas Mrozak, a spokesman for the United States attorney here, declined Wednesday to confirm that the office had issued subpoenas. The Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that the investigation would determine if the creation of a fake identity to harass the 13-year-old, Megan Meier, could be considered Internet fraud under federal statutes. MySpace, the social-networking Web site, has its headquarters in Beverly Hills, Calif.

After almost a year of investigation, federal prosecutors in Missouri did not press charges against Lori Drew, the woman who, along with her teenage daughter and a former employee, was accused of setting up an online account using the fake identity ?Josh Evans,? an attractive 16-year-old boy, and communicating with Megan in the month before her suicide.

The Drew and Meier families live within blocks of each other in Dardenne Prairie, an affluent community northwest of St. Louis. Megan was a friend of Ms. Drew?s daughter, but the friendship cooled when the girls began junior high school two years ago. Soon afterward, ?Josh Evans? appeared on MySpace and began sending messages to Megan.

At first, the messages were benign, Jack Banas, a Missouri prosecutor, said in a news conference last month. But on Oct. 15, 2006, Josh Evans?s tone changed. Josh and other MySpace users deluged Megan with negative comments.

The final message from Josh Evans said, ?The world would be a better place without you.? Megan hanged herself in her bedroom closet later that day, according to a police report.

According to another police report filed after a verbal confrontation between Lori Drew and Megan?s parents , Ms. Drew said that she had ?instigated? and monitored the MySpace account. Ms. Drew now denies sending messages from the account, according to a statement released by her lawyer, Jim Briscoe.

?Contrary to statements reported in various news media around the nation in recent weeks, Lori Drew did not create or direct anyone to create the Josh Evans MySpace account,? Mr. Briscoe said in the statement. ?Although she was aware of the account, Lori Drew never sent any messages to Megan or to anyone else using this MySpace account.?

Mr. Banas said that the author of the final message to Megan was probably Ashley Grills, 18 at the time and an employee of Lori Drew?s advertising company.

Mr. Banas said in December that he would not pursue charges against Ms. Drew because current state statutes on harassment did not address Internet communication. The investigation did not determine that Ms. Drew and the others set up the account with the intent to harm Megan, he said.

Since then, Lori Drew has been the subject of an ?avalanche? of harassment online and in phone calls and letters, her lawyer said. Her address and phone number have been posted online.

Gov. Matt Blunt of Missouri set up a committee last month to review state laws on harassment and expand statutes to cover online communication. It will submit a bill in January that retools legislation to cover Internet harassment. Tina Meier, Megan?s mother, testified before the panel last month.

?I can start MySpace on every single one of you, and spread rumors about every single one of you, and what?s going to happen to me? Nothing,? Ms. Meier said. ?People need to realize that this is 100 percent not O.K., that you?re going to go to jail.?
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