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User Charged With Felony For Using Fake Name On MySpace 931

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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  • Circumstances? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CXI ( 46706 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @03:59PM (#24088237) Homepage
    Is this the same Lori Drew that drove a teenager to suicide by pretending to be a teen aged boy that intentionally was scorning the teen girl? So there might be a little more to this story...
  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:09PM (#24088429)
    I'd love to see some spammers get a vacation at a federal PITA accomodation for using fraudulent credentials to fool mail servers into relaying their spam.

    Then again, most spammers just want to make sure I can get a hard-on and have plenty of busty babes and a Canadian pharmacy connection to work with - they're not performing a near-textbook case of manslaughter by depraved indifference.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:10PM (#24088445)

    It isn't the use of screen names that's the angle to the prosecution: it's the violation of the site's terms of use. slashdot permits users to use screen names so their use on slashdot is not a violation of its terms of use.

  • by I confirm I'm not a ( 720413 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:10PM (#24088447) Journal

    I'm not as familiar with US law as I am with UK and NZ law (and IANAL, yada yada) but isn't this how prosecutions in the US usually work? She's being charged with anything and everything (three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress, and one count of criminal conspiracy [wikipedia.org]) in the hope that at least one charge will stick. To me at least, Criminal Conspiracy seems fair enough and I'd imagine that that would be the charge that stuck. Have faith in the defense, the jury and the judge...

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

    by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:12PM (#24088507) Journal

    If you abuse this law (meant to deter actual computer crime) to criminally enforce the TOS of any random website, it sets such a bad precedent that 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.

    The biggest problem, besides the overreaching law, is that any idiot can -- and does -- write his own TOS.

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

    by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:14PM (#24088533)

    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.

    Exactly -- this is not somebody using a fake Hotmail account to sign up for newsletters -- this is a grown adult woman who created a false identity with the specific intent of mentally and emotionally harassing a minor child. While I worry as much as everyone on here about overly-broad laws being used well beyond their intended purpose, I have *NO* qualms about this law being used against this piece of shit. Clearly, if they were to arrest everybody who has ever used a fake name on the Internet, the whole fucking country would be in jail. This is exactly the sort of thing a law like this was intended for -- not just creating a false Net persona for role playing, spam protection, or just plain privacy, but using that fake identity in the commitment of a much greater evil.

  • by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:15PM (#24088565)
    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.

    What monetary damages? Millions from a woman who probably has more debt than assets? 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. Then again, I think what she did should be criminal - psychological harassment - but, I don't write the laws...
  • Not that bad... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lixee ( 863589 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:18PM (#24088611)
    In Morocco, a 26 years old was kidnapped, tortured and sentenced to three years in prison for creating a Facebook profile with the name of a prince (the king's brother). The case [wikipedia.org] showed that there have been little change in the country (and its institutions) since the end of Hassan II's tyrannical regime.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:20PM (#24088655)

    I've been keeping tabs on this case for awhile, and I can not get over peoples pointless quest for vengeance on this issue.

    So she made fun of some stupid stupid stupid pampered teenage girl, who goes and kills herself. Where is the crime here? I can say anything I want to any person I want and if they don't like it they can fuck off.

    I can only hope in my wildest dreams that people I flame go and kill themselves.

    Lori Drew deserves a medal. And no I'm not trolling.

    Also legally this is fucked. If she doesn't win America should be dissolved, there is no freedom left.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:36PM (#24088955)

    Some staff at my old school registered with their employee email for facebook, and did not identify themselves as faculty. Thus students who had explicit privacy settings allowing only students to view their profiles were compromised. Parties were reported to the local police, and individual users who were underage and pictured drinking on campus property were sent through the college judicial system. (And to the trolls who no, I wasn't one of these people)

    Is THAT moral? On one hand, it's out on the internet. On the other, the users denied certain people access using an admittedly easily breakable access control. This doesn't defend a DCMA violation, why not this?

    In the end, this seems to be a lose lose situation. Either your social networking profile is NEVER private, or this innocent woman goes to jail.

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

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:36PM (#24088957) Journal

    >_ Yet another thing where someone did something heinous, and can't be charged for it, because there was no law against it.

    As sick as what she did, I don't see how faking an identity in order to harass someone until the point that they kill themselves would not be covered under like, involuntary manslaughter at the very least.

    At the very least, I'm sure there are laws protecting people against other people sending harassing and intimidating emails. I know it happened at college (almost every other year, there was a story about someone who faked an email address in order to harass someone.)

    Unfortunately, if nothing else sticks, then TOO BAD. The protection of "everyone is equal in the eyes of the law" is that laws shouldn't be jury-rigged to punish someone for something that was otherwise something not illegal.

    I recall there was a problem in Enumclaw with a man who would film himself having intercourse with a horse, and eventually ended up puncturing his intestines and died from it. As a result, prosecutors tried to get his friend who was filming for something, anything, but there were no real laws against bestiality at the time. So, they had to go with a misdemeanor or something of "animal abuse". Either way, they changed the law to ensure that someone couldn't do it again, or anymore.

    So, 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. BOOM, problem solved for the future. Does it suck that she gets off? Yeah, it does, but that's how law is supposed to work.

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

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

    by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:42PM (#24089055)

    Well, let's see...the statute involved basically punishes people who use a computer system under false pretenses to do something they shouldn't be doing and that the computer system owner doesn't want them doing.

    Lori Drew used the Myspace computer system with a false identity for the sole purpose of causing grievous harm to a girl, and Myspace very specifically doesn't want stuff like that to happen.

    The point about fake names is a red herring - fake names are perfectly legal, AS LONG AS they are NOT being used to defraud or commit a crime. But that is EXACTLY what Lori Drew did - she used a fake name to deceive a girl about her identity, for the purpose of harming her, and used the Myspace computers to do it.

    Sounds like a perfectly legal and sane use of the law, flamebait headline aside. She should consider herself lucky it is the government going after her - maybe the family of her victim will decide that is enough and not pursue an extra judicial death sentence. (Not that the bitch doesn't deserve it).

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

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:55PM (#24089317) Homepage Journal

    Thank you, kind sir or madam, for being a force of reason in sea of chaos. I'm reading these posts palming my face, going, "Damn! These people never RTFA, and they don't even bother doing a little research."


    Look, people. Laws are worded specific ways for a reason. Usually they are written so that they can be used to prosecute people who break the law. Obviously, no one is going to start prosecuting MySpace or Slashdot or Facebook members who post using an alias.

    It's not like Cathoderaytube, elrous0, and LilGuy, or any other pseudonymous user of this website (except for perhaps the Microsoft astroturfers) are out to cause any sort of harm or damage. No one's going to be arresting anybody, not even the aforementioned Microsoft astroturfers, who are probably guilty of nothing more than libel.

    Lori Drew, OTOH, performed an act of criminal harassment against an unwitting teenage girl, causing her to commit suicide. I'm sure we'd all like to see her prosecuted, even if she had never used the internets to do it.

  • wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:57PM (#24089351) Homepage
    All these posts denigrating the law and the justice system, based on something as inherently unreliable as a slashdot article summary. First of all, if anyone here thinks that under this law you could be indicted for just creating a pseudonym on an online forum, you really need to learn critical thinking skills. Hell, anonymity is constitutionally protected in many circumstances.

    I've read the indictment, and that's not what it says. The relevant federal law requires that the unauthorized access to be done in furtherance of some tortious or criminal act. To extort money, to cause physical injury, to get government secrets, to damage the computer, etc. In this case, the defendant gained unauthorized access to myspace to intentionally inflict emotional harm on this girl. Now whether that qualifies as "physical injury," I don't know; they might have to show that the defendant intended the girl to physically hurt herself or sustain injury as a result of the abuse. But even if it gets thrown out, it is still close enough to justify bringing the charge in the first place. No, it is not a symbol of the horrible legal oppression everyone suffers here. I am not especially pro-prosecutory; in fact, I almost joined the public defender's office after law school, and I am very skeptical of prosecutors in general. But I'm also sick of the ridiculous overreaction everyone here has everytime anyone anywhere is charged with a crime.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @04:59PM (#24089377) Homepage Journal

    Were they using a pseudonym or trying to impersonate someone else?

    Its perfectly legal to have a pseudonym in the real world, so how the hell can it be illegal in the cyber one?

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

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:09PM (#24089565)
    Quite right. I don't expect this to be a regularly enforced rule.

    Unfortunately, it sets a precedent, and every precedent shows up somewhere else, always more stringently enforced.

    US law used to say that using any name one chooses was not illegal as long as it was not for the purposes of fraud.

    E.g, if I called myself Tom Cruise and never made any attempt at connecting myself with THE Tom Cruise of acting semi-fame, I'm fine. "Are you THE..." "No I am not." End of problem.

    If I went online as "Tom Cruise" and tried selling "Katie's used panties" for $100 each, well, that's fraud, and that makes the use of the name illegal.

    The question here is if MySpace would have provided their service to this woman under her "real" name, or did they only do so because of the name she used. If they would have provided the service under any name she used, then there is no fraud. She got nothing she would not have gotten otherwise.

    This charge is chilling. I have no doubt nobody expects my birth certificate to contain the words "Obfuscant", and "oahazmatt" doesn't contain that as his legal name, either, I expect.

    It actually sets two bad precedents. One is that using a fake name is a felony. The other is that websites can determine when someone is committing a felony, instead of the legislature.

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

    by homer_s ( 799572 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:10PM (#24089573)
    As sick as what she did, I don't see how faking an identity in order to harass someone until the point that they kill themselves would not be covered under like, involuntary manslaughter at the very least.

    We have a woman in the office who gets offended if she sees two people talking quietly - because she just assumes that they're talking about her.
    So, if she gets depressed about this and kills herself, you'd want everyone in the office to be charged with involuntary manslaughter?

    You have to base laws on the act and not on the effect the act has on someone.
  • Re:Fudgepackers. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by psychodelicacy ( 1170611 ) * <bstcbn@gmail.com> on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:13PM (#24089631)

    Alternatively, you can say that most people will never be pursued for this kind of thing, but if they fraudulently open an account and then use that account to hound a 13-year-old girl to suicide, it's not surprising that the full weight of the law will be brought to bear on them. Drew can't be prosecuted for harassment or child abuse, of both of which she is apparently utterly guilty.

    It's not great, but I have to say that I'm glad she's being prosecuted for something. It's like Al Capone being busted for tax offences - it may not be the ideal, but it's better than letting her go entirely unpunished.

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:28PM (#24089875)

    As sick as what she did, I don't see how faking an identity in order to harass someone until the point that they kill themselves would not be covered under like, involuntary manslaughter at the very least.

    They're just doing what any good prosecutor does -- throwing everything they can at the wall to see what sticks.

    That said, I think this is a real loser for the prosecution. There's no way the Supreme Court is going to let people be criminally liable for failing to obey a contract of adhesion. That's just madness. I doubt that this'll survive even at the trial level if her defense attorney hasn't forget everything about unconscionability since graduating law school years ago.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:31PM (#24089925) Journal

    How it usually works is that they'll charge you with everything possible in the hopes that you'd rather plead guilty and get 10 years instead of taking a chance with a trial and getting 30 years. Whether you're innocent or not doesn't matter. What this really amounts to is punishing you for exercising your constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial. Plea bargaining is damned abusive, and should not be allowed.

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

    by Ortega-Starfire ( 930563 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @05:38PM (#24090013) Journal

    My Adelphia (now TWC) has in the terms of use that I could not sign up for any service with fictitious names. I forgot if TWC/roadrunner has that in its TOS as well.

    The internet populace is obviously filled with felons. Better arrest us all!

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

    by Lulfas ( 1140109 ) on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:02PM (#24092111)
    That's the key. The lady signed up to Myspace with the intent to torture the girl. I'm willing to bet quite a few parents pulled their kids off Myspace because of this, resulting in less ad views, resulting in financial harm.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @12:10AM (#24094851) Journal
    Suicide is a selfish act and teenagers are generally selfish beings.

    Having said that I think the difference here is that an ADULT deliberately set out to make a CHILD's life a misery because of a drama at the local HS. This is very different to getting picked on by other CHILDREN at HS or attacked with random flamebait on slashdot.

    This woman either needs phyciatric help or some time in the slammer to think about the morality of harrasing a 14yo to the point of suicide. Unfortuantely there is no law against being a petty minded immature bitch that thrives on the misery of others.

    I for one applaud the prosecuters for harrasing this woman with imagantive charges that won't stick and sincerly hope they continue to make her life a misery for the next few years.
  • Re:What the.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:14AM (#24095537) Homepage Journal

    Her intent was not to cause harm to MySpace, though. That's technically where the CFaAA is supposed to begin and end.... But yeah, her intent was to cause harm, which makes her either A. a pretty mean-spirited person or B. someone who doesn't think before she acts. Either way, she should be pitied, not given prison time.

  • Re:RTFP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @02:16AM (#24096005)

    You don't read so good, do you? Looks to me like you just scanned my post for keywords and then just went on to rant about whatever you happened to feel like ranting about.

    Back at you. How about I quote you this time? You don't mind do you?

    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.

    Maybe if you were not equating anonymity to dishonesty, my comments may not have had such a "ranting tone" to them. Furthermore, my post was spefically about anonymity which is what you were talking about. You seemed to imply that I "went off on a tangent", which is not true.

    1.) that anonymity is used to avoid accountability

    See, now you are just full of shit. Offensive Shit. Bolding is not too subtle there is it? Anonymity is not used to avoid accountability you jackass. You speak about game theory like you have some intelligence. Well if you really were well versed on game theory you would understand that anonymity is not used to avoid accountability. I put that in bold again for you. How about some italics too? ANONYMITY IS NOT USED TO AVOID ACCOUNTABILITY .

    2.) that a society in which anonymity is frequent is one in which people will lie about important parts of their lives in ways that make it harder for all of us and that strengthen McCarthyite tactics.

    Once again, anonymity is NOT deception. "McCarthyite" tactics? Whether or not those "tactics" existed there would STILL be people in government that would seek to remove our rights. Anonymity and Privacy are pretty much the 1st line of defense against a fascist totalitarian government. You act as if removing anonymity from our society would suddenly render these people impotent.

    You are not really that naive are you?.

    I never denied that there is a place for anonymity. Quite the contrary. But from what I can see, it is used as a crutch by many who shouldn't at times that they shouldn't. If I were female I would be more reluctant to be as public as I am. If I had a lot of money or were better known I would be more careful.

    No you did not deny that there is a place for it, just that anybody that uses it is a lying deceitful bastard who lies to themselves as much as others. That it is a crutch for people that lack testicles, or "a pair" as you cleverly refer to them. I guess females are just typically weaker and need anonymity as a crutch to defend themselves too. Of course if you are rich, then that is one more entitlement (or excuse for deceitful behavior) that you receive as part of the benefits package. I like how there are so many many clauses on just when it is ethically right for people to enjoy their most basic rights in this country.

    You're barking plenty loud but you're doing it at the wrong tree. Better luck next time.

    I think I barked up the right tree plenty. For someone that does not seem to appreciate fascism and "McCarthyism" you are very quick to denounce one of the few tools that citizens have to protect themselves.

    Maybe the next time you decide to spew out your righteous rhetoric on why we are all impotent cowards for dishonoring ourselves with anonymity you could spare us the intellectual foundations about, "It's game theory folks, thats why you are dishonest pieces of shit".

    Did you get under my skin a little? Oh yeah. Apparently I got under yours. The difference is that I am not a fascist in an intellectuals clothing.

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:08AM (#24100447)
    and here's some VERY relevant (and never mentioned) information.

    When it says "the two" at the beginning, it means Megan (13 year old) and her mother.

    "the two got into an argument over the vulgar language Megan used in response to the messages and the fact that she did not log off when her mother told her to.[4] After the argument, Meier ran upstairs to her room. She was found twenty minutes later, hanging by the neck in a closet. Despite attempts to revive her,[14] she was pronounced dead the following day.[4] According to Ronald "Ron" Meier (Meier's father) and a neighbor who had discussed the hoax with Lori Drew, the last message sent by Evans read: "The world would be a better place without you." Investigators did not find a record of this message."

    So, the woman actually driving her to suicide is highly suspect for a couple of reasons. The first is that so many people claim that the woman TOLD her to kill herself (which there is suspiciously no record of, yet ever other message was tracked. Secondly, it was after an argument WITH HER MOM that the girl ran off and killed herself. This sounds a LOT like the parents wanted a scapegoat and said "well, this person was mean to her so we'll tell everyone that Lori Drew's mean comments made her kill herself".

    I'm willing to bet most people who are all pissed off against Lori Drew never heard that information.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!