Lori Drew acquitted in cyberbullying case

In a second ruling in the Megan Meier cyberbullying case, a federal judge yesterday threw out Lori Drew’s three misdemeanor convictions of late last year, the Wired “Threat Level” blog reports. “The case against Drew hinged on the government’s novel argument that violating MySpace’s terms of service was the legal equivalent of computer hacking.” US District Judge George Wu, who is expected to issue his written opinion early next week, told Wired that the prosecutors were basing their arguments on the premise that it’s up to a Web site operator “to determine what is a crime…. And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract,” the judge said, referring to a site’s Terms of Service. What Judge Wu’s ruling did not concern was testimony in the case last year which “showed that nobody involved in the hoax [against Megan Meier] actually read the terms of service.” In that testimony, Ashley Grills, who was also involved in the hoax against Megan Meier and was testifying under a grant of immunity, “also said that the hoax was her idea, not Drew’s, and that it was Grills who created the Josh Evans profile, and later sent the cruel message that tipped the emotionally vulnerable 13-year-old girl into her final, tragic act.” This latest ruling was about the prosecution’s application of the law to cyberbullying, and a commentary from the Progress & Freedom Foundation in Washington zooms in on that, saying that one problem with the discussion of this case (leading to confused lawmaking) has been conflation of cyberbullying (which the PFF calls “kid-on-kid” online abuse), general online harassment (involving people of all ages), and adult-on-kid online harassment (as in the Meier case). Here’s the Los Angeles Times’s coverage of this week’s news and my coverage last December.

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