With the ever increasing dependence on internet and computer technology comes the increased potential for perpetrators to commit crimes online. While crimes such as identity theft are well known and tracked and legal remedies are prevalent, other potential internet crimes present problems for officials seeking to protect the public. One such case is that of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Myspace.com user who committed suicide in October 2006 after being spurned online by “Josh Evans,” a 16-year-old boy who Megan believed was interested in her. The tragic catch? Josh Evans actually never existed, but was created through MySpace by the mother of one of Megan’s classmates. The classmate’s mother, Lori Drew, claims that the account was created in order to learn what Megan was saying about Drew’s daughter. After nearly a month of internet flirting, “Josh” wrote several cruel messages to Megan, including one telling Megan that the world would be better off without her. Megan hanged herself the same day.

In response, authorities filed charges against Lori Drew, charging her with conspiracy and fraudulently accessing a protected computer without authorization. Megan’s case marks the first time that a federal statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits accessing protected computers without authorization, has been used in a social networking context. Previous prosecutions under this law include hacking cases and other similar cases in which computers were used to obtain information. However, authorities have never brought charges in a case in which a computer was used to send harassing information. As such, it remains unclear whether courts will be receptive to this new interpretation and application of federal law. While the outcome remains to be determined, it is clear that Drew’s indictment serves to put potential internet imposters on notice that they may face prosecution for their actions.

– Marci Britt

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