Thursday, January 10, 2008
Missouri cyberbullying: Case not closed
There have been two new developments in the tragic cyberbullying case in Missouri that broke last November (see "Extreme cyberbullying"): 1) Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are looking at charging the adult neighbor who created the imposter profile that led to the Missouri teen's suicide, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Prosecutors in Missouri said they were unable to find a statute under which to pursue a criminal case." The US Attorney's Office in L.A. believes it has jurisdiction because MySpace is based in Beverly Hills, and - creatively, the Times cites a legal experts as saying - the L.A. prosecutors are exploring charges involving federal wire fraud and cyber fraud because the woman "defrauded MySpace" by creating the imposter account, the Times cites anonymous sources as saying. The First Amendment could be a big hurdle for them, but if they're successful, the case could be groundbreaking because of all the fake profiles people create all over the social Web, for both benign and malicious reasons. 2) The other development, online vigilantism, is described in depth in the Washington Post. Wanting to avenge Megan's death, people have "combed public records online to post photos of Lori and Curt Drew along with heated messages demanding they be held accountable. Satellite images of the house were also posted, along with the Drews' address and phone numbers, and details about where each worked.... What lawmakers couldn't or wouldn't do, virtual vigilantes quickly did," the Post reports. Also at the Post, see this online discussion of the Megan Meier case between readers and Daniel J. Solove, associate law professor at George Washington University and author of "The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet. Its insightful last Q&A is about virtual mobs and online shaming.