Thursday, December 11, 2008, 12/11/2008 09:26:00 AM

MySpace Suicide Results in Prosecution and Conviction Under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

By Todd
Lori Drew's was a suburban housewife whose daughter was friends with a certain Megan Meier. Drew's daughter and Megan Meier had a falling out that didn't sit well with Mrs. Drew - so she hatched a plan to create a fake MySpace young man who would communicate with Megan Meier. After weeks of online courtship with “Josh,” Megan Meier was distressed one afternoon in October 2006, according to testimony at the trial, when she received an e-mail message from him that said, “The world would be a better place without you.” A witness who testified under an immunity agreement that shortly after that message was sent, Megan wrote back, “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” Megan Meier hanged herself that same afternoon in her bedroom.

Prosecutors were under the gun - what would they prosecute Lori Drew for?

Enter the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Prosecutors argued that Lori Drew got access to communications with Megan Meier by fibbing about her own identity online and pulling a fraud on MySpace and exceeding authorizations provided her in the MySpace agreement and consent. The violation was of the site's terms of service which requires users to provide "truthful and accurate'' registration information. The jury instructions can be reviewed here: http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/files/jury_instructions_in_lori_drew_case.pdf.

Lori Drew was convicted. Many are wondering whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was itself abused by prosecutors who were bending it to the facts of their case. Obviously the jury felt there had been a violation of the law.

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