MySpace Suicide Case Raises Free Speech Issues

Posted by findingDulcinea staff

A number of rights groups have filed an amicus brief in the MySpace suicide case, warning that the rights of almost all Internet users could be in danger.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Public Citizen and 14 law professors filed the brief in the MySpace case, asserting that criminalizing the actions of Lori Drew would set a precarious precedent.

Missouri resident Lori Drew admitted to creating a fake MySpace profile in 2006, that she used to convince 13-year-old Megan Meier that she was exchanging messages with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. Drew, 49, is the mother of a classmate who had had a falling-out with Meier.

After receiving cruel messages from “Josh,” the clinically depressed teenager hanged herself in her bedroom.

In May 2008, authorities indicted Drew on federal charges with violating MySpace’s terms of service, but those who filed the brief argue that this could endanger free speech.

According to the brief, “the Government’s theory would attach criminal penalties to minors under the age of 18 who use the Google search engine, as well as to many individuals who legitimately exercise their First Amendment rights to speak anonymously online.”

The case is also another example of cyberbullying, which is on the rise, according to parents and educators. In response to concerns about cybersafety, MySpace and Facebook recently established new safety policies to aid parents in monitoring their kids’ online activities.

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