Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jury decides on cyberbullying case

A Federal jury in Los Angeles has convicted Lori Drew of three misdemeanour counts of computer fraud, specifically accessing a computer without authorisation. This is not unusual in itself, but the novelty of the decision is that Ms Drew's conduct was to create a fictional MySpace account to bully neighbour teenager Megan Meier, who committed suicide as a result of the emotional distress caused by Ms Drew.

I have commented already on the strange tactic by Federal prosecutors of using anti-hacking law against cyberbullying. While the jury did not believe that the action was a felony, and therefore only convicted the action as misdemeanour, I still find that the legislation does not really fit the offence. Lori Drew's conviction should be taken as the potential criminalisation of breaching Terms of Service, something that I am not sure the law was designed to accomplish to begin with.

It is possible that this case is a one-off, but a worrying precedent has been set.

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