Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Famous Cases in the United States - Part One

To begin this blog entry, I started by typing “famous cyber-bullying cases” into Google.  Obviously.  It is just natural.  The second link, conveniently titled "Famous Cases of Cyberbullying," had a list of cases that gained media attention over the last ten or so years.  The list was broken up by country and regions around the world.  I guess I did not even start to think about cases that occurred outside the U.S.  But, the Internet reaches people across the globe; of course using the Internet to bully is bound to be a growing problem worldwide.

However, I decided to focus on certain cases in the United States that I have heard of before, or have already seen mentioned in articles that I have linked.   One of the most well known cases and a name that has popped up is:

Megan Meier

The "Famous Cases" website just gives a small summary of how Meier was bullied online.  Meier, age thirteen, had a falling out with a friend and neighbor.  The mother of the friend, Lori Drew, made a fake MySpace profile and posed as a sixteen-year-old boy named Josh Evans.  “Evans” added Megan and struck up a friendship.  According to the Wikipedia page about her suicide and the ABC News Article, Drew wanted to get personal information from Meier and use it against her (an employee of Drew also admitted to using the fake account).

“Evans” claimed to be new in the Missouri town in which Meier lived.  On October 15, 2006, his messages became unfriendly and quickly turned hostile.  One message read: I don't know if I want to be friends with you any longer because I hear you're not nice to your friends.”  Meier’s father found the last exchanges between his daughter and “Evans” on AOL Instant Messenger in which “Evans” told her: "Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you."

Only twenty minutes later, Meier’s mother found her body hanging in her closet.  She died the next day.  The case did not gain media attention for about a year because of the FBI investigation into Drew's MySpace hoax.  According to Wikipedia and a New York Times News article, in 2008, “the state of Missouri...revise[d] its harassment laws in response to the case, updating them to cover harassment through computers and mobile phone messaging, and creating a new crime to cover adults 21 and over harassing children under the age of 18.”  Because there was no such law in place before Meier’s suicide, Lori Drew was not prosecuted in Missouri. 

Ironically, Drew became a victim of internet harassment herself.  Someone published her phone number and address online and her house ended up being vandalized.  The “Famous Cases” page also linked me to an article in Wired Magazine that quotes Drew’s attorney discussing how she has been “an Internet punching bag for almost three years having been tried, convicted, and lynched by bloggers.” This article itself has 87 comments (the most recent was only three months ago) and the majority of people are debating the federal case against Drew.  But, within the first twenty or so, Lori Drew is called:

·      An asshole
·      A predator
·      Twisted and sick
·      A sack of nauseating blubber
·      Immoral and despicable

Although Megan Meier had a history of depression, the court of public opinion is overwhelming convicting Lori Drew as playing a role in Meier’s suicide.

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