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User Charged With Felony For Using Fake Name On MySpace 931

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the understand-before-you-prosecute dept.
Recently a user, Lori Drew, was charged with a felony for the heinous crime of pretending to be someone else on the Internet. Using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Lori was charged for signing up for MySpace using a fake name. "The access to MySpace was unauthorized because using a fake name violated the terms of service. The information from a "protected computer" was the profiles of other MySpace users. If this is found to be a valid interpretation of the law, it's really quite frightening. If you violate the Terms of Service of a website, you can be charged with hacking. That's an astounding concept. Does this mean that everyone who uses Bugmenot could be prosecuted? Also, this isn't a minor crime, it's a felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment per count. In Drew's case she was charged with three counts for accessing MySpace on three different occasions."
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User Charged With Felony For Using Fake Name On MySpace

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  • Listen up (Score:1, Informative)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @02:58PM (#24088217) Homepage Journal
    Before y'all begin hootin' and hollerin', note that the person being charged is this Lori Drew who -- instead of talking to other parents and handling a problem as a mature responsible parent should -- helped drive a vulnerable little girl to suicide. As messed up as the American legal system is becoming with regard to computer and internet law, I hope that they stick it to her and give her the maximum punishment.

    Keep in mind that this is much a much different situation than, say, that dumb kid who was facing years in prison for changing grades(people usually get off with community service and/or fines in such cases).
  • by ohcrapitssteve (1185821) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:03PM (#24088319) Homepage
    ...but the subject fails to mention, for whatever it's worth, that this is the same Lori Drew that's been all over the news for helping her daughter create a fake Myspace to lead a neighborhood 13 year old girl into thinking a boy liked her. Drew and her same-aged daughter (and apparently one other teen) perpetrated this farce and then pulled the rug out, making this teen girl think the boy no longer liked her. The girl subsequently committed suicide.

    It seems that because of that, IMO, the feds are out to nail her on whatever they can, not because of a site's terms of use policy. Though this would set a terrifying precedent.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by rodgster (671476) <rodgster@yahoCHEETAHo.com minus cat> on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:04PM (#24088339) Journal

    This is about the girl who committed suicide.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24670474/ [msn.com]

    And I agree. I think they should have taken a different angle in the prosecution.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:16PM (#24088593)

    This scared me at first that it was just another case of "Sheriff Joe Bob" not understanding what these internets are all about but, its not as bad as it sounds.

    The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is not as overbroad as the poster makes it out to be. As others have mentioned, this is the case where a mother created a fake online profile with the specific intent of harassing a girl (that ended up committing suicide). I haven't seen the court papers but she's most likely charged under the law NOT JUST for merely creating a fake profile, but for "intentionally accessing a computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage that results in" "Physical injury to any person" or "A threat to public health or safety". She can't be convicted just for faking a MySpace account. Tin foil hats off.

    And yes, IAAAL.

  • by sconeu (64226) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:24PM (#24088733) Homepage Journal

    In the case of a criminal acquittal, they can't. Double Jeopardy would apply.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:30PM (#24088835)

    Also, god help you if you visit microsoft's website with firefox, violating their terms of use and getting 5 years of prison time for that.

    As much as I hate MS, that is just pure lies. From the Microsoft.com ToS link http://www.microsoft.com/info/cpyright.mspx [microsoft.com] it doesn't even mention Explorer and the only mention of Windows is when referring to Windows Live search.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:40PM (#24089031) Journal

    Please explain how "we can basically jail anyone that uses the web, a phone, or any device with a computer in it such as a car or a washing machine" in detail.

    Or, are you arguing by hyperbole, which is basically a lie?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:53PM (#24089267)

    Is there a difference between an anonymous internet identity and impersonating someone else to phish data?

    This should be a key point in interpreting.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:3, Informative)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:09PM (#24089567) Homepage Journal

    Under the law, and this has been tested repeatedly, you can call yourself anything you wish SO LONG AS THERE IS NO INTENT TO DEFRAUD. There is no legal requirement that you call yourself by your birth name, except on certain documents relating to property. Since there is no monetary loss here, there was no fraud. Deceiving someone SOCIALLY is not fraud. If it were, every high school clique would be in jail.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:50PM (#24090249) Journal

    There's no law against tearing the tag off your own mattress. There's a law against tearing the tag off a mattress you're going to sell to a consumer.

    People with allergies have a right to know their furniture isn't going to kill them. Once you've been informed by the tag on a mattress you've bought, you can do whatever you like to the tag.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by chunk08 (1229574) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:16PM (#24090563) Journal

    Imagine, you break up with your girlfriend and she decides to do something stupid, and suddenly you're to blame...Imagine you do nothing, but this girl has a crush on you and kills herself because she thinks she can't even talk to you.

    Hypothetical situations most /.ers cannot even conceive of.

  • Re:Fudgepackers. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Monday July 07, 2008 @09:44PM (#24093841)

    as horrible and disgusting as what Lori Drew did was, it does not make her responsible for Megan Meier's suicide.

    Yes it does. Pretending to be someone else in order to exploit known suicidal tendencies and driving someone to suicide does make you responsible. That's why it's despicable: you're exploiting someone's state of mind to do them harm.

    Violating Myspace's TOS is not a fucking felony, and it is NOT okay for DAs to decide to come up with some dubious legal strategy just to make someone pay.

    I actually agree on this. Hopefully, Lori will show up dead one day and nobody will care, but in the meantime, it's only illegal to impersonate someone specific. Pseudonyms are protected.

  • Re:I'm George Bush (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @07:38AM (#24098533)
    The article doesn't say - but from what I can tell, it appears this person was using someone's name deliberately to harass or defraud them, rather than just using imnotgiving@mynameout.com or similar. This is basically "cyber-bullying" which most people would be against (although I would be one of the first to argue it's ludicrous to have such punishments for cyber-bullying when real bullying is much worse and continues unpunished). The danger here is that as you say, there's negligible legal difference between using some random name (I'm sure there are plenty of "Richard Head"s who would clean up if they caught wind of this litigous opportunity) and proper cyber-harassment (which should be illegal, but only after regular bullying is addressed).
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Omestes (471991) <omestes @ g m a il.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:41AM (#24102001) Homepage Journal

    Then charger her with murder, or wrongful death, or being a bitch, don't throw random extra charges into the mix for "image" or "revenge". It sets a bad precedent, though probably an unenforceable one (how many people actually ever use their real names names online?).

    Not following a ToS is in no way a felony, it is simple breach of contract, and thus a civil matter. Most courts probably wouldn't even hear it, since there is a VERY easy way of enforcement, banning people using pseudonyms (even if this is 50% of your user base).

    This is out of touch, much of the history of the internet is based around people using handles and aliases, it never really matched the "real-world" model of identity, and probably never will. Trying to force it into this paradigm is just silly. Outside of my bank and university, my real name is no where represented online, not even MySpace or Facebook.

  • Re:I'm George Bush (Score:3, Informative)

    by PachmanP (881352) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:41AM (#24102003)
    Yeah it's about some mom that supposedly made a teenager girl commit suicide by pretending to be an internet boyfriend then dumping her. link [wikipedia.org]

    I wish there was a way to implement an anti-witchhunt system. Make everything to do with big media cases take a 1 yr breather or something.

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