More than a year ago, in October 2006, a 13-year-old school girl named Megan Meier hanged herself in her home in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri. An investigation initially revealed that Meier, who had long battled depression, committed suicide after receiving some cruel messages on the MySpace.com social networking site. The messages were supposedly from a 16-year-old acquaintance named Josh Evans.
The two teens had been exchanging messages for about six weeks, but Evans's messages had grown steadily more hostile. According to reports, his last message to Meier was that she was "cruel" and a "bad person."
Dramatic Turn of Events
But then the case took a dramatic twist. It turned out that "Josh Evans" did not exist -- he was allegedly the invention of a woman named Lori Drew, the mother of another girl with whom Meier had been fighting. Law enforcement authorities contend that Drew created the online profile to communicate with and harass Meier online.
After discovering that "Josh Evans" was a fake profile, state and federal prosecutors searched for a law under which to charge Drew, but were unable to find one that fit the circumstances of the case.
Outraged by the absence of a law to punish the harassment of Meier, some Dardenne Prairie residents have meted out their own justice. According to reports from the Los Angeles Times, a wide range of personal information about the Drew family -- including photos, their home and e-mail addresses, and their home phone number -- has been posted on the Internet.
Some residents have even held protests on the sidewalk in front of the Drew home. In response, the Drews have installed surveillance equipment on their property.
New Law Adopted
Just last week, however, the community's Board of Alderman passed a new law that makes cyberbullying a crime. It is now a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail, to harass someone over the Internet.
Harassment is defined under the law as causing a reasonable person to suffer "substantial emotional distress." It also covers communications by an adult to a child under the age of 18 that would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the child's well-being. The law applies to many different types of electronic communications, including e-mail, instant messaging, and texting between phones.
Around the country, many other communities and states have either adopted similar laws or are considering them. A Vermont law requiring school districts to adopt policies prohibiting cyberbullying, for instance, was passed after a 13-year-old boy also committed suicide in the wake of harassing instant messages. The boy's father, John Halligan, has become an advocate for the passage of cyberbullying laws across the nation.
Online services like MySpace and Facebook typically have explicit prohibitions against electronic harassment and encourage their users to report instances of cyberbullying. States have been slow to adopt the proposed legislation, however, largely due to concerns over the impact of free speech.
Posted: 2010-12-08 @ 1:20pm PT
My deep condolences to the Meier family. I beilieve justice should be serve, and Lori Drew should be held accountable for her malicious and immature actions that eventually lead to the death of a young girl.
Posted: 2010-11-26 @ 2:48pm PT
The mother who tortured Megan Meier should be in prison for life. For an adult not to do any better is astonishing. It saddens me when some people ignore what a serious problem cyberbullying has become. You can ignore it but if your name is being libeled etc it can still destroy you, and children don't often view things like adults. Cyberbullying needs to be treated like the crime it is and internet companies that do nothing to assist with the problem such as My Yearbook and Topix need to be subject to fines and lawsuits. That would change things a lot. Using Topix, for example, they don't require registration or moderate their forums which means disaster. Those are the things that need to be changed.
Dealin with cyber threats:
Posted: 2010-07-27 @ 8:01pm PT
Yeah, maybe as each city, town experiences the death of some innocent child, will they then enact a law to punish those who commit such a crime....lets see how many die and what happens to those who committed the crime....death=$500 fine WOW... Get tougher than that and do it now! Maybe this world would appear to be a nicer place..