Friday, May 16, 2008

Al Capone and Internet Safety

I'm sure you are all aware of the suicide of 13 year-old Megan Meier, a St. Louis teen who thought she was talking to a 16 year-old boy who was actually an adult neighbor.

Today, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles announced a four count indictment against, Lori Drew, the adult accused of being instrumental in Megan's death.

I think this is an extremely interesting case for many reasons. If you look closer at the indictment, you realize that there were no cyberbullying or harassment laws in place that could be used to get justice in this case. The US Attorney had to get creative and took a page from the Al Capone prosecution book. While there were laws against what Capone was doing, no one could get the goods on him for murder or other heinous crimes. However, they were able to put him away for tax evasion.

What has happened in the Megan Meier case is that the US Attorney has applied laws that are typically aimed at hackers and used the MySpace Terms of Service as a key portion of the issue. I am sure that this will catch the attention of the ACLU and EEF and you will be hearing charges that this prosecution is too broad and may be leading us down a slippery slope.

I seriously doubt that anyone will be prosecuted for minor violations of TOS as they might suggest. The US Attorney took great pains to emphasize that the decision here was made on the merits of this particular case. It was the death allegedly as a result of the actions of an adult online. That indeed is a serious case and anyone thinking that the US Attorney would be going after someone for anything minor is either delusional or paranoid.

Cudos to the US Attorney for seeking justice for Megan.