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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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  • What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dahitokiri (1113461) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:56PM (#24088183)
    FUCK?! Do the people that make laws have absolutely ANY idea how the internet works and is used? Are they even living on the same planet as the rest of us? Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
  • by nweaver (113078) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:58PM (#24088223) Homepage

    Drive a girl to commit suicide, and get prosecuted for loggin in under a fake name...

    I don't know whats worse, the ACTUAL crime that isn't criminal, or the prosecution under criminal statutes for something which shouldn't be considered a crime?

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

    by teknopurge (199509) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:00PM (#24088267) Homepage

    What, because a site's policy states something you think it's ok to not pay any attention to it? To blow-by the sign-up form with false data that just meets the field validation?

    Christ indeed. IMO, who cares how people "use" sign-up forms, the provider expects valid information to be entered. What, because there is finally a consequence to providing false information just to sign-up to a site you're getting pissy? Please. Now if they only start to go after all the spammers with yahoo/google/hotmail account we'll have some progress.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dahitokiri (1113461) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:01PM (#24088285)
    Bad laws often use a scapegoat to justify their existence. Another example would be the recent laws that violate the privacy of Americans to fight against "Pedophiles and Terrorists". A bad law is a bad law is a bad law.
  • by Stanistani (808333) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:02PM (#24088307) Homepage Journal

    This is, of course, the Lori Drew who worked hard online to bully and demoralize a teenage girl to the point where she committed suicide.

    The question is, since no laws exist which would allow her successful prosecution for her actual offense, why prosecute her for a violation of a site's TOS, which would establish a dangerous precedent for many users who simply don't want a site to have their private information?

    This case belongs in civil court, not criminal. Let the dead girl's parents sue Lori Drew, prove their case, if possible, and collect monetary damages.

  • by japhering (564929) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:03PM (#24088317)

    And just how many people have a) the time to read 20 pages of small print and b) the education to understand all the legalese ?

    Simply put, NO one but lawyers or lawyer wannabes reads the terms of service because the average man on the street can't understand it

  • Re:Listen up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:04PM (#24088341)
    Yes, her actions were despicable, but that doesn't mean we should be misinterpreting laws in order to find some way to punish her.
  • by trickonion (943942) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:05PM (#24088361) Homepage
    You make it seem as though they are being deceptive. How is what she did important to if this law is valid or not?
    "You can't wiretap phones without a warrent!"
    "Well, this person is a terrorist"
    The ends never justify the means. The ends is bullshit, the means is what you have to live with.
  • by japhering (564929) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:05PM (#24088367)

    Sorry, but most of the liberal judges will set aside a jury nullification

  • by Arimus (198136) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:06PM (#24088381)

    Correction please: Why some of /. love her so much.

    Personally: If this law is the only one they can find to get her under then so be it. Personally I'd rather it was something like manslaughter but this is better than nowt.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CogDissident (951207) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:08PM (#24088415)
    You will also have to give out all of your personal information to every 2 bit site on the internet to spam you with. 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.

    Because, you know, signing up to a website under a fake name is entirely justified with 15 years of prison time. Maybe you'd like the death penalty to anyone who steals a snickers bar or crank calls you as "I P Freely".
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by snowraver1 (1052510) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:09PM (#24088437)

    Do the people that make laws have absolutely ANY idea how the internet works and is used? Are they even living on the same planet as the rest of us?

    I realize that this was likely a rhetorical question, but IMO, the rulemakers do not live in the same world as us slashdotters. I would bet that many of the lawmakers still have VCRs hooked up, and the clock has been blinking 12:00 for 10 years. The lawmakers are just like every other "old" person. They call thier son/nephew/grandson for technical support when thier computer isn't working. They do not have a myspace profile, instant messanger account, or any account for that matter beyond email.

    I'm a Canadian, for the record, and bill C-61 (Canada's DMCA) has all the marks of someone that wants to make a difference, but really does not understand the technology that the laws are supposed to cover.

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:10PM (#24088451) Homepage

    Our society has gotten lazy with law enforcement. Proving that somebody commented THE crime is hard, and making all really bad behavior is hard. So, we just make it a crime to do silly normal things and selectively enforce the laws. EVERYBODY in America is a criminal - do you think you go through a single day without violating SOMETHING in the Code of Federal Regulations, or any aw passed by any legislature in the last 200 years that hasn't been repealed, or anything contrary to common law? Plus, those laws make a convenient excuse for performing searches/etc (your honor, the grass looked taller than 2.3 inches so I knocked on the front door, and in plain sight it looked like there might have been an illegally-copied CD sitting on the table, and when I walked in to grab it I noticed some cigarette packages on the table in the other room so I went over to check their seals and then I noticed the lamp that could also be used to grow weed and so I called in SWAT to bust open every wall in the place...).

    The job of the cops is to figure out who the bad guy is, and the job of the prosecutor is to figure out something in those aforementioned library-filling tomes to pin them with. Gotta love it!

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:11PM (#24088475) Journal

    Do the people that make laws have absolutely ANY idea how the internet works and is used?

    Yes, they do. They're not interested in enforcing this in general, but if you pull a stupid, nasty stunt that turns out worse than you'd imagined and they're under public pressure to do something to you (as is the case here), they have something in their pockets with which to charge you.

  • oh no not again (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gothzilla (676407) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:14PM (#24088535)

    Slashdot needs to change it's slogan from "News for nerds" to "Editorials for nerds."

    This type of legal action is nothing new and has been happening for decades and there's nothing wrong with it. If you commit a heinous crime, they will charge you with every single criminal act they can find no matter how small.
    Slashdot would love for you to believe that this is something new that's never been done before that will have incredibly powerful effects in the future when the opposite is true. It's been happening for a very long time.

    I should keep count of how many "articles" here aren't actually news but heavily biased editorials designed to feed the paranoid.

  • by w32jon (1317789) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:14PM (#24088547)
    I'd rather not chisel away the foundations of internet freedom just to punish a pathetic woman. While what she did was pretty morally reprehensible, this "solution" would have a far greater impact on society than anything she did.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:15PM (#24088553)

    Agree.

    Does MySpace actually take any action to verify any of the personal details entered during account creation? Most sites required account activation based upon your e-mail address, and that is all. They send an activation e-mail to verify an identity. I personally have never received snail mail or even a phone call from MySpace asking me to prove any of the identity information that I entered was accurate. If MySpace takes absolutely no action whatsoever to verify a persons actual identity for their hundreds of thousands (millions?) of users then this seems like extraordinarily selective enforcement of the TOS.

    MySpace TOS also states:

    This Agreement is accepted upon your use of the MySpace Website

    Seemingly they want to hold you to an agreement that you didn't even necessarily agree to. If your server keeps sending me pages upon request I'd like to know how that is not authorized use? You can revoke that authorization only if I actually agree to your TOS, IMO.

    BTW, does using a proxy or anonymizer count as impersonating another person or using a false identity? Is it a felony? What if a friend is logged into MySpace and I browse the site using their computer? Is that a felony? Is it two separate felonies because one of us broke the TOS by letting someone else use their account and the other used an account that wasn't theirs to browse a few pages? What if I type a funny message on their messenger? What if I enter accurate account information but mistype my address or phone number? That's also in breach of the TOS. Is that a felony?

  • by Darkon (206829) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:15PM (#24088559)

    I would also say there are important differences between:

    1) Registering under someone else's name, specifically intending to impersonate that other (real) person.

    and

    2) Registering under the name "Silly Salad" or something obviously fictitious, just to retain your anonymity.

    And you don't trust a judge and jury to appreciate the difference?

  • by gorehog (534288) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:19PM (#24088629)

    I should post this as AC...

    Lori Drew is reprehensible. But we HAVE laws for harassment and disorderly conduct and libel. These can all be applied. There are even laws regarding prank phone calls (which might be best used as reference here). We DO NOT need new precedents that reduce the ability of the individual to access information anonymously.

    See...we have the first amendment that guarantees the freedom of speech, press, and religion. What we don't have is a guarantee of unfettered access to information. Using fake accounts for access to some websites is de riguer on the internet. Everyone does it for a WIDE variety of reasons (dont want to get caught fucking someone else, dont want to get caught looking up c4 recipies, dont want to get spam).

    Damn...imagine the implications for 10minutemail.com

  • Re:Listen up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FSWKU (551325) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:19PM (#24088641)

    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.

    There are SEVERAL things they could get her on: criminal child abuse, coercion of a minor, etc. But no, that would be too much work. Instead, they want to give her felony charges for violating the TOS of a website. I'm all for making sure she's punished, but this is not the way. Have the DA actually DO HIS JOB and not hoist her on something that can set a precedent which can be later used to fuck all of us at will...

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:21PM (#24088681) Homepage Journal

    Yes she should. But the charge should be "lethal harassment" or something, not "using a fake ID on a website" or "not following the terms of service".

    It's always such bullshit cases that set extremely dangerous precedents.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:21PM (#24088683)

    Let me enlighten you... "Ethanol-fueled" is a screen name, alias, or nick name. When you sign-up for Myspace you are asked to complete a form with your name and identifying information, however you can choose to have a separate and unrelated screen name, alias or nick name. My Yahoo e-mail address, for example, has no relation to my personal name, but I provided my personal name to Yahoo to sign-up for the service.

    Since everyone is going haywire about this, let's look at an offline example. If I complete a loan/job/cell phone application and indicate that my name is George Bush (it's not) and provide other false information, I could face legal consequences for providing such false information. Should we get all up in arms about that? Most companies are going to take additional steps to verify my identification before they give me a loan/job/cell phone. Even though they will verify my identity that doesn't make me less liable for providing false information. Either the user is responsible for providing accurate information or the company is responsible for verifying the accuracy of the information provided. Do you want MySpace/Newegg/TigerDirect to call references, run a credit report, or take additional measures to verify your identity or do you want them to accept your promise that you are accurately representing who you are?

  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:25PM (#24088747) Homepage Journal

    "The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
    Ayn Rand

    Quoted from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/ayn_rand.html [brainyquote.com]

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

    by oahazmatt (868057) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:25PM (#24088753) Journal

    Do the people that make laws have absolutely ANY idea how the internet works and is used?

    Yes, they do. They're not interested in enforcing this in general, but if you pull a stupid, nasty stunt that turns out worse than you'd imagined and they're under public pressure to do something to you (as is the case here), they have something in their pockets with which to charge you.

    Quite right. I don't expect this to be a regularly enforced rule. I believe it's more like getting Al Capone for Tax Evasion.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mweather (1089505) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:25PM (#24088763)
    That's what most laws are for: fucking with undesirables.
  • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:26PM (#24088777)
    I was under the impression that legal punishment was in place in order to keep people from getting hurt, not a sadistic need to see more people hurt. (Maybe I'm just naive.) Pushing someone does not cure or revive the victim. If she gets away with what should be a crime but isn't - let her, just change the laws to punish what you believe should be the crime, not just anything to satisfying your (understandable) sadism in this one instance. It is not worth setting a precedent which will only cause more people to be harmed.
  • Re:Listen up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:31PM (#24088843)

    Riiiight. Your exactly the reason why this law is being abused.

    Your emotional reaction to this young girls death has clouded your judgment. You even admit that the "American Legal system" is "messed up" with regards to technology, but have no problems allowing the law to "malfunction" as long as it hurts Lori Drew. That's hypocritical and a desire for nothing less than mob justice.

    What you don't understand is that this would create precedent. This is bigger than Lori Drew and it is bigger than that poor little girl who committed suicide. I am not an "unfeeling monster" either. That little girls death was a horrible tragedy, Lori Drew's actions were unconscionable, and it is a sad commentary on just how degraded society has become.

    Terms of Service is a legal contract, a CIVIL agreement, between two parties. To say that the deliberate obsfucation of information while signing that agreement is a felony is outright lunacy. It is at most fraudulent and MySpace would have to prove what damages it incurred as a result of said fraud IN A CIVIL COURT.

    Lori Drew's actions with respect to MySpace (and only MySpace) were not remotely "hacking" and not remotely criminal in any sense whatsoever. The only action she committed that should be investigated by the DA is contributing to that little girl's death. I don't know what criminal laws apply to that, but hacking is not one of them.

    So although I can understand why you are angry and upset at Lori Drew for her actions, and I empathize with the parents and family of the little girl, it DOES NOT JUSTIFY anyones desire to apply criminal law incorrectly to a civil dispute.

    If this precedent were to be created it allow ALL websites the ability to verify your information and forward any disputes about its veracity to the local DA. Having the DA prosecute people for "lying" to MySpace, Google, Yahoo, HotMail, Slashdot, etc. is not in the best interests of our society.

    Quite simply put, the fact that Slashdot has NO accurate information regarding me and my account is NOT hacking and it is NOT a crime. If you believe it is, be careful. All somebody has to do is hack your connection at home, create a fake profile at MySpace, notify the authorities and you will be playing the "Mammas and the Pappas" in some prison.

    P.S - For those that might not get "Mammas and the Pappas" its a joke and use your imagination.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:36PM (#24088945) Journal

    It is not a bad law. It is a unique and inventive use of a law intended to punish people who crack into systems.

    And, they have a point as the terms of service for MySpace state that, in order to use the service, one must provide correct information.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:40PM (#24089025)

    The point though is that nowhere was there anything remotely resembling "unauthorized access of a computer". This was nothing but regular bullying done over the internet.

    The equivalent of this is the popular girls in high school convincing the local star to be friendly with the ugly girl, only to humiliate her in the most public fashion possible. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is not the proper way to deal with this.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by w32jon (1317789) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:40PM (#24089029)

    Loans, jobs, cell phone service, Newegg, and TigerDirect have a legitimate need to confirm your identity, for obvious reasons.

    On the other hand, does MySpace really have a need to verify your identity? Fake names have not really been regarded as a big deal where a verified identity is not absolutely essential, and I'd like to see things stay that way.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by omeomi (675045) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:40PM (#24089039) Homepage
    What, because a site's policy states something you think it's ok to not pay any attention to it? To blow-by the sign-up form with false data that just meets the field validation?

    This would be a perfectly valid reason for a company to delete an account. It's not a good reason to charge somebody with a felony.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twistedsymphony (956982) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:44PM (#24089111) Homepage

    Because, you know, signing up to a website under a fake name is entirely justified with 15 years of prison time. Maybe you'd like the death penalty to anyone who steals a snickers bar or crank calls you as "I P Freely".

    I don't understand why they couldn't have charged her with some form of harassment, endangering/abusing a minor, or any other number of things. I guess the prosecution saw violating the TOS as the easy way out.

    Are you telling me that if she verbally abused that girl in person to the point where she killed herself that it would be A-OK by the law simply because she wasn't violating a TOS?

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy Hunter (317220) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:46PM (#24089135) Journal

    They're not interested in enforcing this in general

    Having laws which are only enforced at certain times or against certain people is folly. The authorities love it because it gives them leeway to enforce whatever rules they make up, under penalty of being convicted for a "crime" everybody commits. It's easy to see how this can lead to abuse; for example imagine a racist cop who pulls over only black people for speeding. Making the rules is the job of the legislature, not the police or the judicial branch. Laws must be defined precisely and enforced consistently. If there is a law that sometimes shouldn't be enforced, then it should be changed so as to explicitly exclude those times.

  • Re:Commonsense... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shark72 (702619) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:47PM (#24089147)

    "ou don't throw someone to the wolves for just using a pseudonym."

    They do not throw people to wolves for just using a pseudonym.

    "If MySpace even thinks of dragging my kids into criminal (or even civil) court just because they used a pseudonym? I will make it my business to do everything in my power to bring MySpace down."

    They won't. Let's take a step back, look at the facts of the case, and avoid slippery-sloping this.

    MySpace isn't going after Lori Drew just because she used a pseudonym. They are going after her because she used said pseudonymous account to harass a young girl to the point that she killed herself. The pseudonym aspect is the best legal angle they can come up with.

    Likewise, the government didn't put Al Capone in prison just because he cheated on his taxes. They put him in prison because he cheated on his taxes and because he robbed and killed. The tax evasion aspect was the best legal angle they came up with.

    To be fair, if this case were about MySpace going after somebody for just using a pseudonym, then the level of outrage here on Slashdot would be appropriate. But Lori Drew went far, far beyond that.

  • Under common law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bloobloo (957543) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:50PM (#24089201) Homepage

    You may use any name you wish unless you intend to commit fraud. From wikipedia:

            * One may be employed, do business, and enter into other contracts, and sue and be sued under any name they choose at will (Lindon v. First National Bank 10 F. 894, Coppage v. Kansas 236 U.S. 1, In re McUlta 189 F. 250).

            * Such a change carries the exact same legal weight as a court decreed name change as long as it is not done with fraudulent intent (In re McUlta 189 F. 250, Christianson v. King County 196 F. 791, United States v. McKay 2 F.2d 257).

            * This at will right is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Fourteenth Amendment (Jech v. Burch 466 F.Supp. 714).

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

    by sorak (246725) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:50PM (#24089213)

    Do the people that make laws have absolutely ANY idea how the internet works and is used?

    Yes, they do. They're not interested in enforcing this in general, but if you pull a stupid, nasty stunt that turns out worse than you'd imagined and they're under public pressure to do something to you (as is the case here), they have something in their pockets with which to charge you.

    Most laws are not written with the intent to oppress others. Many of the worst ones in non-totalitarian states are written like this one: an overly broad law that can be used to arrest nearly anybody, and gives a well-meaning authority figure an unprecedented amount of power.

    If we allow someone to have this power now, then we cannot take it back, if and when it becomes abused. (See the patriot act for an example)

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

    by gnick (1211984) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:52PM (#24089247) Homepage

    You will also have to give out all of your personal information to every 2 bit site on the internet to spam you with.

    Only if you want to take advantage of the services they're offering. If the price they ask (your personal information) is more than you're willing to pay, nobody will make you sign up.

    If they want you to register and their TOS says "Enter any name and birth date you feel like here:", then put in whatever you'd like. If it says "Enter your name and birth date here or go away:", then either you need to enter your name and birth date, go away, or commit fraud. In most cases, fraud is an acceptable and very common option and it's almost never enforced. But that doesn't necessarily make it legal - This case will decide that.

  • by tenton (181778) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:52PM (#24089257)

    Dear Mr. Capone,

    You did evade taxes, which was still illegal.

    Love,
    The IRS

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

    by FunkyELF (609131) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:53PM (#24089263)
    -1 Offtopic?
    Read the subject, not the content... I'd bet that it isn't his real name.
  • Re:Commonsense... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:55PM (#24089309)

    By your logic, it would be okay to go after someone for driving a car, as long as they drove the car over a few living bodies (whereas the crime is not in driving the car, but in driving the car over the bodies).

    If you prosecute one person for the use of a pseudonym, you really need to prosecute everybody for the use of a pseudonym.

    (see, I'm comfortable with prosecuting all tax evasion, I'm not comfortable with prosecuting all use of a pseudonym)

  • Slow Down, Cowboy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:59PM (#24089385) Homepage Journal

    Do the people that make laws have absolutely ANY idea how the internet works and is used?

    First of all, nobody's making a law here. This is a grand jury (12 ordinary people) getting persuaded to indict Drew based on a weird legal theory that probably won't stand up in court.

    So if this indictment isn't going anywhere, why issue it? Because millions of people are pissed off about the suicide of Megan Meier [wikipedia.org], which occurred after she was humiliated via that bogus MySpace account. Of course, using an online account to humiliate somebody isn't illegal (if it were, we'd all be accessing Slashdot from jail!), so all this outrage had nowhere to go — until a creative Federal prosecutor came up with this ToS theory. Which, as I said, will probably go nowhere. Lawyers come up with strange legal theories. Judges shoot them down. Happens every day. That's why we have judges.

    People need to dial back the outrage. Drew was allegedly pissed at Meier over some stupid teenage thing that happened between Meier and Drew's daughter. Then millions of people got pissed at Drew and demand that she be thrown in jail, never mind what the law says. Now you're pissed at some half-assed legal maneuver whose only really purpose is to appease all the people who are pissed at Drew. Too much pissedness, not enough thinking. Chill out, America!

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:02PM (#24089437) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I think it's perfectly fine to ignore a site's policy. If they don't like you doing that, they can boot your account.

    I really don't give a flying fuck if IMDB wants to sell my personal info in order to allow me the privilege of posting a review saying that some movie sucked.

    I really don't give a flying fuck if Myspace or Youtube or Facebook want me to provide personal info they can use or sell in return for the privilege of showing me advertisements.

    If Target required me to let them photocopy my driver's license for the privilege of buying groceries from them, I'd give them a fake ID just out of principal. When stores want me to sign up for a "shoppers card" so they can track me just for the privilege of being able to pay normal prices instead of the inflated ones, I sign up with a fake address and the name Mickey Mouse. Out of principal.

    If they don't like that and don't want my business and want to ban me - fine, I'll shop somewhere else. If they don't ban me, then I'll patronize them and continue to flout their bullshit and intrusive policies.

    But if they want to have me arrested, then we have a serious problem.

  • by RustinHWright (1304191) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:03PM (#24089465) Homepage Journal
    This is basic game theory, folks. As long as most people conceal their behavior it is viable for many people, if not most, to decry things that they do themselves in private. This rewards dishonesty.
    The more of you hide behind anonymity, the more denial will take place.
    The more denial there is, the fewer decisions will be made rationally.
    The less rational decisionmaking is, the worse our laws will be.
    The more of you hide behind anonymity, the easier it is for the things you value to stay illegal or otherwise subject to sanction.

    Speaking as somebody who is here under his real name, I think that there's an awful lot of bullshit out there traceable precisely back to the anonymity of the internet. An anonymity that was never more than an artifact of the system in the first place. I agree that in certain places there is a valid need for anonymity. If I still had a corporate job maybe I would be more reluctant to do things as openly as I do. But otoh, I think that people have used the internet in particular and turning a blind eye in general as a way to keep being dishonest with themselves and each other about their lives.

    I read porn. I like it. I've got a nice little trove of pictures of naked women on my computer. So do most of you, correcting for gender where appropriate. I don't believe in any sort of sky god or attend any sort of church. I eat meat, support full legal abortion, and do quite a few other things that are considered offensive to many folks out there, some of whom won't buy my products or otherwise deal with me if and when they find this stuff out. And I get a little tired of how few of you are willing to stand out here in public as I have chosen to do.

    Grow a pair, people. Stand up and start admitting under your own names what you do and why. Until you do, the right wing slimebags will always not only have you by the short hairs, they'll keep punishing the people like me who stand up and try to help your sorry lazy selves.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by edumacator (910819) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:04PM (#24089483)

    Because, you know, signing up to a website under a fake name is entirely justified with 15 years of prison time. Maybe you'd like the death penalty to anyone who steals a snickers bar or crank calls you as "I P Freely".

    Whoa! Slow down cowboy...

    I agree there are some real concerns here, but it doesn't serve the cause to overstate the consequences of her actions. So to be clear, the sentence is up to five years. The lower end of the sentencing is definitely much lower. Now you might argue that even the low end is too high, but you're assuming the worst.

    Laws are set with a range of consequences so they fit the severity of the crime. As an example, what if this lady faked her name to gain access to a colleague's pages, and then post doctored pictures to the site to slander the colleague so the impersonator can get a promotion. That is a serious crime right? But probably not fifteen years worth. But say, it was to impersonate a person's friend, in order to lure them to a location to kill them, then maybe fifteen years isn't enough.

    Granted, you can probably counter my hypothetical with another, but the point is, this is a sliding scale. Few, if any, judges would impose the highest sentence for a minor case.

    Also, there is a significant difference between being charged with a crime and being convicted of one. Prosecutors are general more zealous than judges.

  • And that is why... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HappyEngineer (888000) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:04PM (#24089497) Homepage

    While I agree the setting of precedent is kinda scary, I think the woman should be punished as a criminal in every way possible to punish her for directly driving a girl to suicide.

    And that is why we have so many bad laws. You're essentially saying "I want blood and I don't care what the wider effect on society is."

    Sometimes the first person to commit a particular type of crime will simply need to be left unpunished. The proper thing to do is to pass a new law that specifically targets the bad behavior without catching normal behavior in a dragnet.

    Allowing prosecutors to stretch an existing law so that it can target largely harmless behavior is not a good idea.

    If you like that sort of behavior then why not just pass a law that says "prosecutors are allowed to punish anyone with 5 years imprisonment for any reason" and then allow them to selectively punish people whenever they do something nasty that isn't illegal. What could possibly go wrong?

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

    by blincoln (592401) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:12PM (#24089615) Homepage Journal

    If I complete a loan/job/cell phone application and indicate that my name is George Bush (it's not) and provide other false information, I could face legal consequences for providing such false information.

    I'm sorry, but signing up for MySpace is not in the same category as applying to any of those things. The closest real-world equivalent I can think of is signing up for a hobby/book club.

    If you tried reporting someone to the police for signing up for the chess club with a pseudonym, the police would rightfully tell you it wasn't their problem, and they should have the same disdain if someone complains about a fake name submitted to MySpace.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:13PM (#24089619) Homepage Journal
    It would seem there's already laws to cover that. Harassment, depraved indifference, negligent homicide, whatever.

    This, instead, is like going after Al Capone not even for tax evasion, but for tearing the tag off his mattress.

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

    by flaming error (1041742) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:14PM (#24089641) Journal

    someone did something heinous, and can't be charged for it, because there was no law against it ...the state they're in needs to pass a new law, saying that creating a false identity for the express purpose of harassing someone else is illegal.

    If the prosecutors couldn't find a law related to psychologically abusing somebody until they commit suicide, then probably they're not very good prosecutors.

    If their laws really are crafted so this can't be conceivably called murder or manslaughter or bullying, then probably they're not very good legislators, and they should fix it.

    But there's no reason any such law need to be concerned with false identities or cyberspace.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann,slashdot&gmail,com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:14PM (#24089647) Homepage Journal

    Quite right. I don't expect this to be a regularly enforced rule. I believe it's more like getting Al Capone for Tax Evasion.

    The problem is that in the wrong hands, this law would make an Al Capone out of EVERYONE. If they need to address a specific case, then make the law for that specific case!

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _KiTA_ (241027) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:16PM (#24089671) Homepage

    You appear to be using an alias, would like to come with us for a little while. -TLA(Three Letter Agency)

    Funny, but it brings up a good point.

    I was under the impression that using an Alias is not a crime, unless you are using it to perform an illegal act.

    Is this no longer the case?

  • Mod Parent Up (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:19PM (#24089725)

    Are you telling me that if she verbally abused that girl in person to the point where she killed herself that it would be A-OK by the law simply because she wasn't violating a TOS?

    Parent is exactly right on the money. I'd just like to add a corollary case: if, instead of hanging herself, the kid had sought help by signing up for a throwaway account on myspace and joining a support group (ie the kind of thing you wouldn't want publicly associated with your real account), would that make the victim into the fellon?

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

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:19PM (#24089727) Journal

    You are confusing "not okay" with "a criminal offence".

    Just because a website has a ToS doesn't mean it gets to dictate what the law is. What the provider "expects" has got nothing to do with it. I don't get to pass my own laws, and neither should MySpace.

    PS - I take it teknopurge isn't your real name, in which case, time to call the police.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darundal (891860) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:19PM (#24089737) Journal
    The issue isn't that she signed up with a fake name. Hell, there ARE consequences in place for that. They merely ban her ass from their site, and then that is it. The issue is the fact that there are not only criminal charges being filed, but truly excessive ones. This in no way warrants a FELONY charge, much the less 3 of them at a maximum 5 years per charge.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:22PM (#24089765)
    As an example, what if this lady faked her name to gain access to a colleague's pages, and then post doctored pictures to the site to slander the colleague so the impersonator can get a promotion. That is a serious crime right?

    Slander is a crime. Fraud is a crime. Already. The name used is irrelevant.

    But say, it was to impersonate a person's friend, in order to lure them to a location to kill them, then maybe fifteen years isn't enough.

    Conspiracy to commit murder is a crime. Murder is a crime. Already. The name used is irrelevant.

    Few, if any, judges would impose the highest sentence for a minor case.

    Is this a minor case? Someone died. Is that less a crime than your colleague not getting a promotion?

    Also, there is a significant difference between being charged with a crime and being convicted of one.

    Tell that to someone who's life is turned upside down because they had the laws twisted into a grotesque form just so they could be charged with something, anything, because what they had done was not actually a crime. Tell that to Steve Jackson, or anyone else whose business has been ransacked and destroyed because of a raid from the government looking for evidence of the crime he was charged with.

    Tell that to the Duke lacrosse players.

    The conviction of the prosecutor in the latter case is rare. Having a precedent like this in the books will make any case of prosecutorial misconduct for whipping up a frenzy over a "fake name" that much less likely, if not impossible.

    This is bad precedent, bad application of marginal law.

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

    by Sj0 (472011) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:23PM (#24089785) Homepage Journal

    These websites routinely ask for information that is none of their business to know. It's not their business what my home address is, what my home/fax/cell phone number is, and so I've always lied. If anyone asks, my zip code is 90210, and half the time my name is Bob Dylan. I don't know of any internet saavy person who would put real information onto the Internet about themselves. It's the first thing they teach you.

    Frankly, this should be struck down upon on summary judgement. The law goes against a basic and fundamental rule of using the Internet. To follow this law is to put yourself in danger. To follow this law is to make it extremely easy to invade your privacy.

    This is like a law against pretty girls lying about their phone number to get creepy guys to stop bugging them, or a law against putting locks on your doors. It makes the Internet experience less safe, and that strikes me as an unjust law.

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

    by Sneftel (15416) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:26PM (#24089849)

    Any law that is "intended to punish" is a bad law. The purpose of a law is to set absolute standards of behavior; the punishment is merely a necessary component of the law to deal with noncompliance. If a law is drafted such that you don't feel like punishing some people who have violated the absolute standards of the law, that law has failed and is a bad law. So tell me: Do you really feel that the government should punish everyone who falsifies their identity in violation of the law?

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:34PM (#24089965) Homepage Journal

    Unless there's a case for criminal harassment, it's just that no charges be filed against someone for 'inciting' suicide.

    Committing suicide is an inherently irrational act. It's not anyone's fault but the person who does it.

    If people could be held responsible for 'inciting' suicide, it'd be terrible. Imagine, you break up with your girlfriend and she decides to do something stupid, and suddenly you're to blame. Imagine, you tease someone a little, as is normal among friends, but that person takes it too seriously and a court finds that you've incited suicide. 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.

    If there's a criminal act, such as criminal harassment (a very tough charge to make stick), or slander or libel, then charge for that. Don't charge for the consequences where someone else makes a very stupid, irrational decision.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:47PM (#24090185) Journal

    Agreed. Signing up with a false name should only be fraud if one party can show financial harm or intent to cause damage. Otherwise, it is simply a breach of contract, which falls squarely into civil, not criminal law. I'd bet money that this case will be laughed out of court. At least on the surface, this screams prosecutorial misconduct.

    That said, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is pretty broken, particularly with the "PATRIOT" Act "enhancements". They pretty thoroughly make working with computers into a minefield. Nearly everyone on the Internet has probably been on the wrong side of it at least once. Basically, it's a law designed to ensure that everyone is a criminal so that they can screw people over if you get on their bad side. Sadly, this could be interpreted as falling into the list of things that are criminal acts under that law.

    What makes this particularly bizarre is that the only reason this is in any way a criminal act is because of the incidental use of MySpace as a vehicle. The same sort of attacks could have driven this person to suicide without that technological help and it would have been legal. In effect, the CFaAA basically boils down to "illegal on the Internet" laws, which is really idiotic. Something legal in person should be legal on the Internet, regardless of the inadvertent side effect of driving some kid to suicide. If you want to make it illegal on the Internet, it should also be illegal to do that same thing IRL. The Internet certainly shouldn't be held to a higher standard, and given the lack of any real verifiable identity on the Internet, should generally be held to a much lower standard.

  • Re:Listen up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MacDork (560499) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:49PM (#24090223) Journal

    Let me enlighten you... "Ethanol-fueled" is a screen name, alias, or nick name. When you sign-up for Myspace you are asked to complete a form with your name and identifying information, however you can choose to have a separate and unrelated screen name, alias or nick name.

    So if she used accurate information, she'd walk. You don't see a problem with that?

  • This scares me. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kerashi (917149) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:49PM (#24090225)

    This potentially sets a broader precedent than just using a fake name. What it does is imbues a website's Terms of Service with the power of law. This is a very bad idea on a number of levels.

    Let's start with a far-out example, simply because I feel like it. If a website for sushi lovers demands that all its users enjoy sushi, and some troll joins up and says they hate sushi, that person under this reasoning would be a criminal who would potentially face 5 years in prison.

    Terms of Service do NOT have the rule of law. There are very few bodies with the power to make laws in this country, and the lawyers and idiots that craft EULA's and Terms of Service are NOT among them. This does not mean you can always violate them at will - there are laws regarding contracts that apply, and if you agree to them you may be liable there - but these are not felonies.

    To state that breaking a Terms of Service, which is NOT even reviewed by congress or any other legislative body, can subject a person to 5 years in prison is simply wrong. Even if it is to cause emotional harm. Say I discover a remarkably stupid post on a blog, register to post comments, and flame the author for its blatant stupidity. I could go to jail for 5 years.

    What this woman did was wrong, there is no debating that, but the fact is that this a precedent-setting charge and, if it goes forward, stands to impact all of us. Find a real charge, something that is actually illegal, and charge her with that. If you can't find a law, let her go and pass one to make sure you catch the next person. Don't allow non-legislators to legislate law. Otherwise the ToS of my website is going to say that you all have to become my personal slaves and serve my every whim in order to access my website.

  • by TheWGP (747857) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:50PM (#24090231)

    You're clearly very biased - referring to defendants as "bitches" is generally frowned on, for example ;)

    No offense, but civil court is the place for this. Why? Because no criminal law was broken.

    Wrongful death or similar are all that's probably likely to result. Sorry, but that's how it is - otherwise, you'd be liable if you insulted someone and then they had a heart attack because they got red in the face.

  • Re:oh no not again (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheWGP (747857) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:53PM (#24090283)

    There is, in fact, something wrong with this - it's near-malicious prosecution because they want to hurt Lori Drew.

    As I noted in another post, the problem here isn't that they're trying to provide benefit to the community by, for example, getting gang members off the streets on bogus minor in possession charges, they're ripping a law from its purpose and using it in ways never intended.

    Not to mention the facts do not support the charge whatsoever!

    Oh, and don't even spout off about grand juries, they're basically a rubber-stamp for prosecutors and anyone with any legal experience knows this. Petit juries, on the other hand... very different purpose.

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

    by bistromath007 (1253428) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:54PM (#24090301)
    The problem with this is ubiquity. Privacy and anonymity have become very serious issues, particularly now that most companies' normal response to the government saying "cough it up" is to fold like laundry. Basically the effect of calling it a crime to register with a fake name is to make it so that, if the government can't get your information, they'll just let businesses do it for them. There are very, very few services of any kind left which don't ask for this information. Somebody who opts out rather than "committing fraud" won't be able to do much of anything legally.
  • by pavon (30274) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#24090325)

    It is not a bad law. It is a unique and inventive use of a law intended to punish people who crack into systems.

    It doesn't matter if it can or is intended to be used against genuine criminals. If it is so broadly written that it can be used to turn a minor breach of contract into a federal felony it is a bad law, period.

    Breaking a contract is a matter of civil law not criminal, and is punishable only by restitution of actual and punitive damages, not prison time. The actual damages caused to MySpace by her actions are at most harm to their reputation, but even that they would have a hard time showing. The proper punishment for false registration in this case is no more than terminating the account.

    And, they have a point as the terms of service for MySpace state that, in order to use the service, one must provide correct information.

    People can put just about anything into their Terms of Service. Can you honestly say that you have even read every TOS for every site you have membership on? Do you honestly believe that it is reasonable to charge someone with a felony for not following any random thing that is put into the TOS? Do you honestly think that providing a false name is the same level of crime as hacking a system? Because that is exactly what the prosecution is arguing in this case, and from reading the law, that seems to be what it says.

  • by lupis42 (1048492) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:58PM (#24090343)
    But murder isn't what she's being charged with. This isn't about what she did, this is about whether this law is a reasonable law. If it isn't a reasonable law for everybody than it doesn't matter whether we like her or not, she should still be held to the same standard.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:59PM (#24090347) Homepage
    Hmmm...I see a chance for a scam here:

    1) Build a web site with a fine-print ToS that prohibits visiting from any OS but <pick your favorite alternative OS, like, I don't know, Haiku [haiku-os.org] perhaps>.
    2) Paste links to your site all over the web.
    3) Search your web server logs for evidence of connections from other operating systems, in violation of your ToS.
    4) ???
    5) Profit!!!
  • Re:What the.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:00PM (#24090367) Journal

    Bullshit. MySpace specifically forbids using the service if you give a fake age. Look it up. It's the first rule in their terms and conditions. It also prohibits use of the site for harassment, inducement to physical harm of any party.

    MySpace Terms and Conditions [myspace.com]

    This woman specifically suggested suicide to a minor. That's not embarrassment. That's inducement.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by White Flame (1074973) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:02PM (#24090389)

    Creating permanent law to address temporary or one-off social problems or self-destructionism is exactly why our legal system is so screwed up today.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:06PM (#24090431) Homepage
    Your point sounds good, but unfortunately, I think your analogy is flawed.

    If you don't want to be photographed at the baseball game, you won't be arrested for covering your face with a baseball cap as the photographer snaps the picture.

    You won't be sued for breach of contract if you cover your eyes during the scary/gross parts of the horror film.

    Enter false information on the Internet site that wants to add you to their e-mail marketing list -- and the e-mail lists of their 1000 closest friends -- and you can be sentenced to 5 years in jail.

    It's not the same.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:08PM (#24090461) Homepage
    Then charge the person with the real crime committed. Don't set bad precedent by using a law that has absolutely no bearing on the case to make sure the defendant is convicted of something, no matter how absurd.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hairy1 (180056) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:12PM (#24090491) Homepage

    This wasn't a case of a little good humoured teasing. This was a case of somebody taking deliberate and malicious actions with forethought and planning with the express purpose of causing extreme personal distress to somebody. The person involved should be held responsible for the outcome, aka imprisoned and her kids taken into care. The only issue here is that the authorities don't have the laws needed to prosecute other than this lame fraud law.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:19PM (#24090637)

    Committing suicide is an inherently irrational act. It's not anyone's fault but the person who does it.

    Its pretty clear you don't have much life experience, and that you haven't thought about this very much. Almost any adult could come up with examples where a 2nd party could be at least ethically (if not legally) responsible for someones suicide.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:22PM (#24090683)
    The tone you use is somewhat attacking,

    Not at all. This is a serious issue about which I care.

    The point of the law, I assume, is to make it difficult to commit the crimes you mention.

    The point of the law is to enact a penalty for committing certain crimes. While there are certain laws that try to make it harder to break others (prohibition on buying certain chemicals so it is harder to make meth, for example), the laws involved here don't. A law against fraud does not make it harder to commit fraud, only that it can be punished when it is.

    Your assertion is a lesser degree of saying, well, carrying an assault rifle into the post office shouldn't be a crime because attempted murder is already a crime.

    Untrue. My "assertion" is that the law used to be that you could use any name you wished as long as it was not for the purposes of committing fraud. My use of the handle I am using here does not intimidate or scare any reasonable person; it does not make you fear me or do anything out of the ordinary (like cross to the other side of the street). Carrying an assault rifle is already a crime by itself. Carrying one into the post office is not "attempted murder".

    I wasn't referring to my example but to the case mentioned in the article.

    Comparative words like "major" and "minor" don't mean anything unless they are compared to something else. On a planet where there is no crime at all, stepping on the flowers is a capital offence (and Wesley should have been executed, it would have saved a lot of trouble in the future.) You were saying that the five year sentence would not be issued for a minor crime; most people I know would not call a crime where someone died a minor crime.

    but I would argue being charged with a crime and then convicted is worse than just being charged.

    A conviction brings some finality to the process. It is a spot from which you can try to rebuild your life. Being "charged" means you are always under suspicion, your property is always "evidence", and your life is open to even more searches for "evidence". "Being charged" means your name is in the papers and you haven't had the chance to clear yourself in a court of law yet.

    I was merely pointing out the inaccuracy of that statement, and trying to illustrate that there needs to be leeway in the range of punishment for any crime.

    I agree.

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

    by Sj0 (472011) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:22PM (#24090695) Homepage Journal

    So? We're on Slashdot. Every single person here has stories just as bad, if not worse, than this one. What happened to us is completely legal most often because it doesn't meet the level required for a criminal offense.

    We didn't commit suicide. Most people don't commit suicide. It's stupid, irrational, and unfair to your friends and loved ones to commit suicide.

    Why do we, the survivors of torment, deserve a lower standard of justice just becuase we were strong enough and smart enough to endure it?

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

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:23PM (#24090711) Homepage

    But then, the only way we got Capone in jail was with tax-evasion... so...

    I was with you to here. However, tax evasion was a real crime at the time, and Al Capone was absolutely guilty of evading taxes. In this case, Ms. Drew may very well be guilty of various crimes (harassment comes to mind), but to my non-lawyer mind, convicting her of felony fraud would be a miscarriage of justice, not mention exceedingly bad precedent.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:26PM (#24090783) Homepage Journal

    Unless you're injecting them with anti-depressants and altering their brain chemistry, the final choice rests with the person who commits suicide.

    Virtually every person on this site has a story to tell. We're nerds. The people who tormented us will never be charged on trumped up charges, because no matter how much it hurt, most of what's happened is legal. The reason then that this girl gets justice, is that she killed herself. We don't get justice, by contrast, because we didn't commit suicide.

    It's not fair that we punish the few bullies whose targets choose to martyr themselves. They didn't choose to have their target commit suicide.

  • by mangu (126918) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:28PM (#24090815)

    If an irrational person seems me talking quietly and assumes I'm talking about her and kills herself, how am I guilty of involuntary manslaughter? On the other hand, if I pretend to be the peer of a teenager and repeatedly send harassing and abusive speech, I've done something quite different.

    So, it's one thing to make fun of an irrational person and a different thing to make fun of an irrational person? I certainly would classify as "irrational" a person who commits suicide based on something someone wrote in a website.

    I remember the case of a guy I knew many years ago. He was a drunk who could never hold a job, but people bought him drinks because he told funny stories in the bar. One night he was walking home and took a shortcut across a garden when it was raining. He fell face down in a pool of rainwater and drowned. Would you say the people who bought him drinks were guilty of manslaughter?

    Both cases are more or less the same, people who are basically unfit for life causing their own death. Normal people would need much more than reading an abusive webpage or walking through a garden in the rain to die. The teenage girl could have suicided because her favorite pop star got married, the drunk could have electrocuted himself in the bathtub.

    It may seem callous, but people with such a distorted personality are living on borrowed time, no one can predict which act will cause their death. Of course, it's wrong to make fun of a neurotic teen or giving drinks to an alcoholic, but I don't think these should be classified as homicidal acts, because death couldn't be predicted, it wasn't even the most likely probability, it just happened.

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

    by zotz (3951) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:30PM (#24090865) Homepage Journal

    I don't think it is that exactly... I think it is more like, we blew it, we think this should have been illegal but it isn't. Quick, what can we use to pin something on this person to to punish them.

    Perhaps if you squint one way this makes sense and if you wink the other it is totally bogus. (Well, except for this should not be a felony and this should not be the vehicle. Perhaps and IRS audit ala Capone would be in order? All of this gets really hairy quickly.)

    drew

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

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:31PM (#24090873)
    Sure, but it was suicide. The person decided to kill themselves. It is like saying that a bar can be held responsible if someone decided to ignore the bar's warnings and drive home drunk and kill someone. But we don't hear those cases much.
  • Al Capone... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:32PM (#24090895) Homepage

    The problem with the Al Capone argument is that it means you have to make everything illegal so that when people step out of line you always have something to charge them with, no matter how unrelated (eg. arresting murderers for tax evasion).

    I'm not sure it's a path we should tread.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clevguru (1002704) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:34PM (#24090929)
    The fact that it is felony is inappropriate in and of its own without regards to this or any other unrelated crimes. Felonies are should be and are supposed to be reserved for SERIOUS crimes such as rape, murder, torture, treason, genocide etc. MySpace "Fraud" should be a heavier misdemeanor. I'm not saying what was done is excusable or acceptable. I'm just judging the so called fraud law on its own merits. Scott
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:01PM (#24091307) Homepage Journal

    I'd be against such a law, for the very reason you're seeing here. Cyber-bullying laws wouldn't be enforced unless someone committed suicide.

    Essentially, we'd be creating a body of law whose purpose would be allowing kids to make martyrs of themselves. Grin and bear it, and your tormentor will never be prosecuted. Kill yourself, and they'll go to jail.

    Frankly, I feel it's rewarding bad behaviour just because it's easy to sympathize with.

    Let's say that this kid didn't kill herself. Let's say she robbed a bank, or killed her tormentor's daughter. In these cases, this woman wouldn't face any legal consequences for her part in causing the tragedy. Why should it be that because the girl killed herself, this case should get special attention?

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

    by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:01PM (#24091317)
    In fact passing these types of laws, which can be selectively enforced for political reasons, are dangerous because they lead inexorably to a greater disrespect for law and order in general (if law a is stupid then what other laws are suspect) among society and particularly the youth. Is it any wonder that an entire generation of young people have grown up with the knowledge that authorities in general and the police in particular are NOT their friends? The level of alienation and ignorance that exists between the "old people" who inhabit the halls of government and the young people on the cutting edge of our civilization is truly vast. In fact it is larger and growing faster now than at perhaps any other time in human history and people ask us geeks why we don't trust the government, use encryption, and are generally secretive with regard to our personal information and protecting our privacy. Every day it seems bring new revelations regarding warrantless wiretaps, government surveillance, and selective enforcement of new laws granting ever greater powers to our government to monitor, fine, imprison, and generally destroy the lives of people for increasingly petty infractions all in the name of "protecting the children" and "defeating the terrorists".
  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:03PM (#24091331)

    I have no problem with you thinking that way, and what you say has a certain logic to it.

    However, I am entitled to be anonymous. Yes, that's right. ENTITLED.

    This country was founded upon belief that one person should not have the right to "screw" with another person. Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. Well that includes absolute privacy and anonymity. You DO NOT have the right to come on my property, or stop me while traversing public property, and demand my identification. I am entitled, as an American, to say, "fuck you and the horse you rode in on".

    Police officers are violating my constitutional rights when they demand my identification without adequate proof of suspicion that I have committed a crime. I have refused several times to the point of almost being put in handcuffs.

    Let me qualify that a little. If I was driving a vehicle, the police officer DOES NOT have a right to demand my identification. However, he does have a DUTY to make sure that I am authorized by the state to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads. In the course of fulfilling his duties, he would verify my identity. I don't have a problem with that. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege. I DO have a problem when I am a passenger in the back seat and the officer asks me for my "drivers license".

    So although you may see anonymity as a challenge, I see it as an absolute that must be protected at all costs. The country would be far less free with anonymity being outlawed.

    That being said, I also believe that I have a right to demand the identity of any entity that wishes to deal with me. "Private Number" on the Caller ID? Leave a message. Don't want to give me your real name when I am doing business with you? Fine, we won't do business.

    MySpace can demand the identity of a person wishing to use their services, but it is still not a crime to obfuscate that information.

    Since there are plenty of people, and you certainly seem to be one of them (no disrespect intended), that are demanding that everybody "grow a pair" and reveal their identities there SHOULD be JUST AS MANY PEOPLE DEMANDING THAT THE INFORMATION BE PROTECTED.

    However, that is not true is it? There is so much abuse, so my identity fraud and theft, so much distrust on the behalf of citizens in regard to their own government and private dealings with other corporations.

    "Lying" about your information on applications for websites is just the tip of the iceberg. I not ONLY lie to ./ and other websites, but I lie to the GOVERNMENT. It is a defense mechanism. It only costs a little money and some time for somebody to obtain information about me from the government that is supposed to be protected.

    There is a conflict of interest when the government makes money from the sale of your information while at the same time being charged with protecting it. That goes for private corporations as well. There is real danger to my person, my family, and my property by "growing a pair" and "standing up in public".

    The decent thing to do is to be honest about who you are when you deal with people personally. However, while I am writing this post to you, millions or hundreds of millions of other people could also read it. I just can't simply say, "Yeah Rustin, that new $15,000 speaker system is AWESOME. I got one for myself in my home theater room" while at the same time having accurate first, last, address, phone, etc. information available in my profile.

    There are too many predators out there and anonymity, either forcefully obtained or through "artifacts" of the Internet, is a required survival tool.

    So if you really want to put your money where your mouth is, then post ALL of your contact information in your Journal. I want:

    First, Middle, Last Name

    Home Address

    Work Address

    All Phone Numbers

    SOS#

    Emergency Contact Information

    Height, Weight, Eye Color, Hair Color, etc.

    Children's information, information on your spouse, etc.

  • Re:Al Capone... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmishElvis (1101979) on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:16PM (#24091501)
    In McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1995) the US Supreme Court held that the freedom to publish anonymously is protected by the First Amendment:

    Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. ... It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation - and their ideas from suppression - at the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse. ... The State may, and does, punish fraud directly. But it cannot seek to punish fraud indirectly by indiscriminately outlawing a category of speech, based on its content, with no necessary relationship to the danger sought to be prevented.

    I admit, I'm at a loss on how Lane's fraud can be punished directly. My first thought was try her for (psychological) child abuse, or maybe under some kind of anti-harassment statute. I wasn't able to find anything that seemed to fit. Any ideas?

  • Re:wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:37PM (#24091769) Homepage
    As has been pointed out previously, the language about "furtherance of some tortious act" is in the "punishment" section of the law. It's a factor to be considered in how severely the crime is punished, but it's not listed as an element of the crime itself.

    No, it's not, it's a required element. Observe the numbering scheme; each arabic numeral enumerates a it's an element of the crime. Following the actual grammar the relevant violation would be "(a) Whoever...(5)(a)(ii)intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, recklessly causes damage; (iii)...and...by [that conduct] caused...(iii) physical injury to any person...shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section." Subsection (c) is the punishment section.
  • Re:Al Capone... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chimpo13 (471212) <slashdot@nokilli.com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:15PM (#24092255) Homepage Journal

    She wasn't publishing anonymously.

  • Re:Fudgepackers. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moxley (895517) on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:19PM (#24092289)

    Sorry, but I think that is total bullshit.

    People are having an overly emotional reaction to this case because it involves a 13 year old child who killed herself; but as horrible and disgusting as what Lori Drew did was, it does not make her responsible for Megan Meier's suicide. Megan Meier is the only responsible for that, and if it wouldn't have been this situation it could have been any other that occurs to teenagers every day; she suffered from acute depression. She didn't "hound her to suicide." People are responsible for their own actions.

    We cannot allow laws to be created based on these sort of emotionally charged "one of a kind" situations. 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.

    That is wrong...In America it isn't supposed to work that way. you don't decide that someone needs to be punished more than what the law allows for based on what they did and decide that you are going to create some bullshit trumped up crap to do it.

    IMO this particular charge should be thrown out, and if the court has any legal sense and a competent judge it will be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:32PM (#24092437)

    I'm a furry.

    If I were to admit to this with my real name in a public forum, it would potentially come up under any future interviewer worth their salt. Most people are OK with someone that eats meat (and honestly most of what you've come out and said). More, however, love to ridicule the more esoteric lifestyle choices, as they feel the safety in numbers.

    Sure, I could "grow a pair." But do I want to risk my potential future earnings over this particular stand? Especially when I have a family to feed? (gasp! A heterosexual male furry that's been laid?!)

    Basic game theory says: Risks Higher Than 0 (which is too much when gambling with my family's future)

    Granted, I'd love to live free. And there are some that can pull it off. Until I'm the only one that (will gladly) pay for that freedom, though, I'll have to shoulder the safer, more responsible choice.

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

    by monxrtr (1105563) on Monday July 07, 2008 @09:14PM (#24092855)

    Two wrongs don't make a right. Should the prosecutor thus be charged with malicious prosecution and lose their license to practice law? It sure like they are heading down the road of political and career "suicide", in the name of vengeance. Cause the prosecutor should be held accountable too, right, and have her kids taken away as mommy serves her sentence for abuse of the law and terrorizing citizens who are innocent until otherwise proven guilty. This is a waste of taxpayer resources to piss away funds for charges that can't stick.

    This belongs in Civil Court, not criminal court. Such egregious prosecution charges aren't just assaulting the Constitutional rights of one horrible mean-spirited detestable individual, but assaulting all our rights, with reckless regard for any collateral damage.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday July 07, 2008 @09:25PM (#24092941)

    Agreed. Signing up with a false name should only be fraud if one party can show financial harm or intent to cause damage.

    Lori Drew signed onto MySpace under a false name (pretending to be a teenager named "Josh") with the intent to first pretend to be the friend of Megan Meier, then stab her in the back, getting other people online to gang up on her and torment her, even going so far as to tell her "the world would be a better place without you, and have a s**t rest of your life." After that last message, Megan hung herself.

    I agree that charging Lori Drew with a felony simply for signing onto MySpace under a false name is reaching, but using a false name with the intent to harass someone should be illegal. If your harassment causes the person's death, then you should be liable for at least involuntary manslaughter.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gonzonista (790137) on Monday July 07, 2008 @10:26PM (#24093581)
    That's fine but the issue here is about whether society should allow one to torment others. By saying 'So what?' you are condoning those who harrass others. This is the sort of attitude that allows disasters like Columbine to happen. It is clear that what that woman did was wrong but the laws are not able to address this. The crime is harrassment and the current law is inadequate. Not addressing this is bad news for those who do not fit in.
  • Re:Al Capone... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaime2 (824950) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:07PM (#24094193)
    Charge the woman for the crime she committed. Please don't charge her for a crime that I committed twice yesterday while downloading a copy of a text editor. This is the first step down the slippery slope towards prosecuting all those with the wrong political opinions.

    Al Capone was prosecuted for a form of tax evasion that is a secondary effect of living a life of crime, and a crime that 95% of law abiding people don't commit. This woman is not being prosecuted for being a criminal, she is being prosecuted for lying on a trivial form at a website that few take seriously.
  • Re:Fudgepackers. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BootNinja (743040) <mack,mcneely&gmail,com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:51PM (#24094667) Homepage
    I'm more concerned however with the bad precedents this could set in the legal system. In my opinion, it is more important to safeguard our liberty than it is to punish someone for their wrongdoing.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:53PM (#24094705)

    but you just stated that Megan Meier hung herself. Shouldn't Megan be charged with a) murder and b) stupidity?

    If i call you a team-killing fucktard and you get so angry you drive your car (who am i kidding, your moped) into a wall/embankment/curb and die, does that make me culpable for YOUR death?

  • Re:Fudgepackers. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sfing_ter (99478) on Monday July 07, 2008 @11:57PM (#24094735) Homepage Journal

    So then the people at "Catch A Pedophile" are committing a felony too. Damn, now how will we be entertained.

    Careful with that double-edged blade.

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

    by downundarob (184525) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:05AM (#24095427)

    That said, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is pretty broken, particularly with the "PATRIOT" Act "enhancements". They pretty thoroughly make working with computers into a minefield. Nearly everyone on the Internet has probably been on the wrong side of it at least once. Basically, it's a law designed to ensure that everyone is a criminal so that they can screw people over if you get on their bad side. Sadly, this could be interpreted as falling into the list of things that are criminal acts under that law.

    I am so glad I don't live in the home of the free.

  • Re:What the.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by porcupine8 (816071) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:06AM (#24095437) Journal
    Something legal in person should be legal on the Internet, regardless of the inadvertent side effect of driving some kid to suicide.

    It's kind of hard to argue that she would have been able to do nearly the same thing without the internet, though. Let's say that, through some elaborate scheme, she could have gotten Megan to become pen pals with "Josh." No part of those conversations (or Josh's existence) would have automatically been publicly available to all of Megan's friends. She could have, say, photocopied the letters and mailed them to Megan's friends, but that would probably be seen by them as more creepy than anything Megan said. And none of it would have happened in realtime - Megan would have had significant cooling-off periods between letters. She could have gotten a guy to pretend to be Josh and talk to Megan on the phone, but getting a teenager to act convincingly for long conversations and not either blow his cover or actually start to feel bad for Megan would be difficult.

    All around, it seems VERY unlikely that she could have pulled off anything near what she managed to without the internet. And at that point, it probably could be considered mail fraud at least.

    I'm not saying they charged her with the right thing, or that there's a law in existence to cover what she did. Or even that there should be. But I don't think the issue is JUST that she did it over the internet instead of in real life. It's that this is a new kind of... crime? rude/bad behavior?... that may have existed in some form before the internet, but is so changed and enhanced and extended because of the internet that dealing with it is entirely different than dealing with whatever the non-internet version would be. So now that this kind of misbehavior has been taken to new heights thanks to the internet, is that new kind of misbehavior covered by the existing laws? Does it need new laws? Has it crossed the line into "things that should be illegal"? Asking those questions doesn't necessarily mean you're saying "Oh, this is bad now because it's on the internet."

  • Re:I'm George Bush (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wamerocity (1106155) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @02:35AM (#24096129) Journal
    I can't even tell you how many websites I've given with my name as "My Balls" or "Your Mama" with a corresponding email address of myballs@myballs.com because I really don't need any more spam, nor did I have any desire to give away my real information. In fact, I don't have a myspace page, but had to get some images from a friends, so I had so sign up, which I think I used the name "Joe Mama." I didn't realize that doing so made me a hacking terrorist!
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by julesh (229690) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @05:05AM (#24097055)

    I agree that charging Lori Drew with a felony simply for signing onto MySpace under a false name is reaching, but using a false name with the intent to harass someone should be illegal. If your harassment causes the person's death, then you should be liable for at least involuntary manslaughter.

    But they _have_ charged her with a crime that is simply signing onto MySpace using a false name. If she's found guilty, it sets a precedent that anyone who has done this, whatever the reason, has committed that crime.

    If you think that using a false name with the intent to harass someone should be illegal, the appropriate thing to do is lobby your representatives to pass a law that makes it so.

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

    by indifferent children (842621) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @08:25AM (#24098429)
    Either way, she should be pitied, not given prison time.

    Or both. Pity her for being messed-up; jail her as a lesson to her future self, and to others, to think before setting-out to cause harm.

    I'm not saying that her speech in this case is not protected by the first amendment, only that in general pity/punishment should not be exclusive.

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

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