Judge George Wu dismissed the charges today, ruling that the prosecutor hadn't proven that Drew violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act beyond a reasonable doubt. Last year, a jury convicted Drew of three misdemeanor counts of accessing a computer without authorization.
Drew was accused of violating the federal computer fraud law based on her role in hatching plans to create a fake profile of a boy, "Josh," who sent hurtful messages to 13-year-old Megan Meier. Megan hanged herself after receiving a final message from "Josh" that the world would be a better place without her. Drew herself didn't send the messages, or even set up the account, according to the prosecution's chief witness, a 20-year-old who used to babysit for Drew's daughter.
No one disputes that the death was a huge tragedy, and no one seriously questions that Drew exercised poor judgment in the case.
But no matter how poor Drew's decisions, or how sad the circumstances of Megan's death, allegedly violating a Web site's terms of service doesn't constitute computer fraud. Otherwise, every Web user who has ever disregarded the fine print in a user agreement -- and that group surely includes many, many people -- could find themselves facing jail time.
Civil rights advocates, law school professors and others had raised that point with Wu many months ago, but he allowed the prosecution to proceed anyway. Perhaps he was hoping that the jury would dismiss the charges, sparing him from making the politically unpopular decision of tossing the case.
But by this spring, Wu seemed to signal that he was inclined to throw out the charges. At a hearing in May, Wu questioned the prosecutor about the government's legal theory. "Is a misdemeanor committed by the conduct which is done every single day by millions and millions of people?" Wu asked, according to The Los Angeles Times. "If these people do read [the terms of service] and still say they're 40 when they are 45, is that a misdemeanor?"
Until laws are enacted to keep online social networks like MySpace in line, there is no hope for those who are harrassed. MySpace does NOTHING to enforce the user agreement it makes everyone sign. I should know--I filed harrassment charges against a stalker (not enforcable between states, by the way) only to realize that they can do anything they want to me and my family, say anything they want, over and over again, and just get away with it. MySpace has deleted over a dozen harassing, defamatory fake profiles that publish our 15 year old childs full name, photo, and street address for any predator to see, plus many other fakes of both me and my husband (who is in law enforcement and needs his info private) that lible us and defame us and have caused severe emotional distress. MySpace just deletes them--over and over--they will not block her nor take action against her even though it is obvious they know what IP address is creating all of this.
I am glad to see that MySpace is losing out to Facebook--maybe if enough people get fed up with the awful things that are allowed to go on there they will wise up and actuallly enforce their own user agreement.
What needs to be addressed it the hateful and harmful intent people have, not what name they do it under.