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The Courts Your Rights Online

Lori Drew Cyberbullying Case Dismissed 408

Trepidity writes "About seven weeks after the judge tentatively overturned Lori Drew's guilty verdict for 'cyberbullying' following her online harassment of a teenager that was linked to the teenager's suicide, the case was finally officially dismissed. In a 32-page opinion (PDF), the court avoided a minefield of possible follow-on effects that civil-liberties groups had warned of by holding that merely violating a website's Terms of Service cannot constitute 'unauthorized access' for the purposes of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030)."
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Lori Drew Cyberbullying Case Dismissed

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  • great (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 30, 2009 @08:13AM (#29250695)

    now they can just arrest her for harassment, like what should have happened in the first place.

  • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @08:18AM (#29250719) Homepage
    Though we may justifiably consider Lori Drew to be despicable, she did not violate any federal statute. The government's case was driven by public opinion, not the facts. In this case, public opinion is just a synonym for "tyranny of the masses".

    The government chose to use the legal system to make her life a living hell. The government has infinitely deep pockets to fund a lawsuit against a private citizen, but the citizen does not have such pockets. Fighting the government in the courts could drive a private citizen into bankruptcy.

    The right thing for Drew to do in this case is to sue the government and, specifically, the lead prosecuting attorney. Drew should sue them for mental distress and seek a multi-million dollar award.

  • Re:Karma Police (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thisnamestoolong ( 1584383 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @08:41AM (#29250807)

    I am sure that eventually the horrible wrong she committed will be balanced - Karma has a way of working things out !

    No it doesn't. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to say that there is something to that, karma is total bullshit. I mean, Hitler committed suicide before we could get to him -- how's that for karma? Or the evil, scumfuck businessmen who defraud the world of billions of dollars only to die of natural causes after getting fat, rich, and happy at the expense of the world? I wish there were something to be said for karma, but alas, it seems that ordinary means of revenge and retribution are all we have. As for Lori Drew, she will be punished by those around her for the rest of her life -- everyone knows who she is and what she has done and she will be an outcast forever. There's nothing mystical about that.

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby&comcast,net> on Sunday August 30, 2009 @08:42AM (#29250821)

    This was truly an unfortunate necessity for the best interest of civil liberties. The reasoning that this case was presented would have made criminals of a great many people for things that should not be criminalized. I understand the charges would have essentially criminalized breaking TOS for a web site, something that simply should not be a criminal action. Will used against this evil bitch who does richly deserve prison, it would set a bad legal precedent.

    That being said, I would still like to find a way to charge her with something appropriate, such as a lesser murder charge, as well as holding her civilly responsible (such as how oj still got held civilly) responsible for the murders he committed)

  • Silly question? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkon ( 206829 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @08:46AM (#29250839)

    So does that mean that if I break a web site's terms of service then my access is still 'authorized'? Authorized by whom?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 30, 2009 @09:16AM (#29250969)

    re: On the contrary, the mind is just another biological function, and driving someone to suicide (i.e. by manipulating their mind until they think of death as the only way out) is as much murdering them as pushing them onto a sword.

    Are you out of your mind? ;-) This implies that if an unstable individual listens to music that drives him/her to suicide, then the person(s) that performed and/or wrote the music is guilty of murder.

  • Re:great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @09:17AM (#29250977) Homepage

    No. Criminally this was a manslaughter case if it was anything at all. One that had to be brought in Missouri. Drew didn't particularly harass the child. One element of harassment is the repetitive nature of the offense. You don't just pester someone once; you do it over and over again. Megan didn't get an email every day for a year saying "Nobody likes you; today's a good day to kill yourself."

    Instead, what Drew did do is negligently bring about the conditions which resulted her death. "Talked her into killing herself" is a tough case to prove though I seem to recall that when Manson talked a bunch of people into killing others it was possible to put him in jail.

    Somewhat better odds of pursuing a wrongful death suit. That's a civil rather than criminal case. Still not great odds and still has to be brought in Missouri, not California.

  • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @09:32AM (#29251051) Journal

    This implies that if an unstable individual listens to music that drives him/her to suicide, then the person(s) that performed and/or wrote the music is guilty of murder.

    Are the performers and writers playing this music intentionally over a period of time in such a way ostensibly as to harass this individual? Is it planned meticulously to cause distress? As interrogators might play loud music for hours every day to break your "unstable" mind while they also aim bright lights at you and threaten you or your family, say? If so, yes, the involved performers/writers are murderers.

    If you mean that just listening to this song (e.g. once on the radio) drove the individual to killing himself, then you'll need to provide some evidence that the person's decision to commit suicide came about in a significant way from listening to the song. Do you have one example of this, anywhere? There are many examples in psych and popular literature of people killing themselves after being exposed to a concerted bullying campaign, you see, but I'm yet to find anyone written up who had no intention of suicide before listening to a song, but killed himself right after.

    And no points for the Gloomy Sunday urban legend, sorry.

  • by Crashspeeder ( 1468723 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @10:10AM (#29251247)
    I'm of the belief that she knew what she was doing and chose to let this girl die, even goading her on to kill herself. I don't see how this is, in any way, different than doing so in person. She should be held accountable for her actions. This woman is the scum of the earth.

    I've had words with people before but I've never attempted to talk somebody into committing suicide. I also tend not to get into arguments with minors. What in the world could possibly lead somebody to think this ever sounded like a good idea?
  • Re:stupid judge (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OSPolicy ( 1154923 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @10:42AM (#29251441) Homepage

    It is possible that you are not a skilled lawyer. Starting with the easy stuff first...

    >Giving false info to obtain something of value is a crime. PERIOD.

    Incorrect. First, I may mistakenly give false information by, for example, accidentally transposing digits in a phone number on a form. Not a crime.

    Second, I may give false information that is not material to the transaction. For example, when dealing with someone who has the discretion to complete a transaction with me or someone else but not both (i.e., has a single item for sale and two potential buyers) and who is wearing an ugly hat, I may tell that person that the hat is attractive in an attempt to get the person to deal with me. Not a crime.

    Third, the thing of value may not be something that the court feels like adjudicating. I man tell you that I will lower your taxes if you give me your vote, which is something of value. Not a crime.

    Numerous other examples suggest themselves. Not crimes.

    >She never violated the TOS. The TOS is a contract which she never agreed to (the nonexistent user she created did).

    If you enter into a contract, say to buy a house, and sign the name of a non-existent person at the bottom, your imaginary friend did not just enter into a contract - you did. The signature element of a contract is satisfied by the parties giving objectively reasonable indications that they intend to enter a contract. Nodding ones head, stating agreement orally, or making a mark of whatever sort (a signature, a big red X, whatever) are all acceptable indications. Crossing your fingers behind your back, mentally adding certain reservations of which the other party is unaware, and using someone else's name are all things that do not negate the agreement to be bound by the contract.

  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @10:51AM (#29251497)

    Nope, it is right. There is special note however - indent is important. Musician who writes a song about guy who is fed up with life and want peace and happiness isn't targeting someone to make sucide, he just expreses the way he feels sometime (or maybe all the time). If someone it gives last punch to do what they intended to do - well, it's harsh, but more or less it's still their decision to listen to this music.

    These adults aim was to harm emotionally girl as much as possible. They had a reason, indent and they did it without any remorse. It could get clasified in some countries as 'driving someone to sucide' and is criminal case. Strangely, US dismiss such responsibility about humans.

  • Re:great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @11:46AM (#29251835) Journal
    " an adult should still not be allowed to bully a child without legal consequences."

    let me fix that: an adult should not be allowed to harass a child without legal consequences. This should be fairly obvious, we don't have a law against that already? I mean I don't think Lori Drew should serve a life sentence, but I'd be very happy if she served at least 6 months, and several years would not be unreasonable since this was no accident, this was a targeted attack at a particular teenage and Lori spent quite some time harassing the child, even going to far to pretend to be a child herself.

    How is it that an adult harassed a child to the point of committing suicide and all we could throw at her is a TOS violation? Men just trying to have sex with teenage girls get jail time, but succeeding in coercing suicide gets nothing?
  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @12:11PM (#29252035) Journal
    she's already lost everything, she lost her printing business and her husband lost his job as a real estate agent.
  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @12:11PM (#29252051) Homepage
    Home Buyer: This is such a beautiful home, why is the price so low?

    Realtor: The owners said that the husband got a new job, selling Jolt Cola next to Mosque's in Baghdad. The husband is a Born Again Christian.

    Home Buyer: That's different. Why are there so many For Sale signs on this street. Except over there?

    Realtor: Oh, well, that's the home of Lori Drew.

    Home Buyer: You brought me to the street that Lori Drew lives on? That's Messed Up, I think we're done doing business, forever.
  • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @01:07PM (#29252493)

    Does this imply that bullying someone (especially underage or pre-teen childeren), by including but not limited to, claiming that 'The world would be a better place without you', up till the point that they feel so miserable that they commit suicide, is somehow not illegal and cannot be punished by law ?

    No, it means that the prosecution was completely incompetent. Drew was charged with unauthorized access to a computer system because she violated the Terms of Service of the web site, which nearly everyone would agree should not be illegal. The case actually had nothing to do with harassment, abuse, or manslaughter.

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @01:10PM (#29252527)

    1." purposefully playing with the emotions of one specific child (not general rants on the internet)"

    I disagree with this. Emotions cannot be measured or quantified. How do you measure emotional damages to another person? How do we even know other people have emotions, do we have some way to scan their brain to know what they are feeling? That idea is completely stupid from a legal point of view, but from a moral point of view I can see why its wrong to bully children.

    2. "a child she knows to have psychologically problems"

    How do you know this?

    3. "over an extended period of time"

    There are already laws to address this. It's called harassment.

    4. "directly suggesting suicide after manipulating, setting up, and torturing this child"

    While I believe it's sad that a child had to die, the only one to blame for a suicide is the individual who committed it. You can never blame anyone else for how you feel or what you do in response. You have to accept and own your own emotions. In this case I have sympathy because it's a child involved, but if it were an adult I would not have sympathy about this.

    5. "This does not consider how complicated the interplay between your rights and your responsibilities are in this world. No, you do not get automatic protection from the consequences of EVERYTHING you can possibly say."

    Nobody has a responsibility to be nice to you. People can say whatever they want. If you try and censor what people can say you only make the matter worse.
    Let people express themselves in text on the internet rather than violently.

    Free speech is too important to throw it away over feelings being hurt. Free speech isn't about feelings, emotions, or psychology. It serves a vital practical purpose.

    If someone harasses you then you can charge them with harassment, there are laws in place already. If someone stalks you then get a restraining order.
    But if someone hurts your feelings, learn to own your emotions or stop talking to people who hurt your feelings.

  • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @03:00PM (#29253537) Journal

    You're saying that an entire country is wrong in how it thinks of the mind?

    Don't be obtuse: I'm talking in terms of the founding principles of the US (which the government sometimes still tries to base its actions on), not the opinion of every last citizen/resident.

    Specifically, you have one quasi-religious belief, and a lot of other people don't, so everyone else is wrong.

    The view that man is a free rational being is quasi-religious, because it assumes that the mind is supernatural. Religion, or something else requiring leaps of pure faith, is required to justify this argument.

    In fact, your mind is just part of your body, and just as subject to disability, limitation and programming. Biology and psychology - the former being hard science and the latter trying its best to follow the scientific method, despite being in relative infancy - provide much evidence in favour of this. Meanwhile, there is no scientific evidence whatever that man is in general a free rational being, in full control of his own faculties.

    Thus, my opinion is scientific; your opinion is quasi-religious. I admit that all scientific explanations for the working of man's mind are incomplete, but at least they're rational. You're waving your hands in the ether and pulling out idealised nonsense from the start. You're doing nothing more advanced than Plato did when he used the regular solids to model the solar system because it's so beautifully and seductively convenient. It's perhaps troubling to accept, but the Universe is not that simple.

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @10:03PM (#29256375)

    but I've actually read up on this case.

    First, the mythical message where she told her to kill herself or that "the world would be a better place without her" has never been found (even if it was found that she said the world would be a better place without her, how the hell can you call stating an opinion a crime? Good god, I'm terrified of the kind of politicians you vote for with views like that...) - on anyone's myspace account or server. Secondly, the girl killed herself after having an argument with her mother about her spending too much time online and her swearing .

    Lori Drew being mean to the girl had nothing to do with her committing suicide. It was her crappy relationship with her parents that resulted in her suicide and her parents, like most Americans these days, wanted a scapegoat to avoid taking the blame for being crappy parents.

  • Re:great (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bhartman34 ( 886109 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @02:46AM (#29257865)

    I'm having a hard time understanding how Drew isn't responsible, since part of what she did was to tell the girl the world would be a better place without her.

    If I told you to jump in a river, would you do it?

    No, but:

    a) I'm not clinically depressed
    b) I'm not 13.
    c) Telling someone once to jump in a river is very different from constructing a persona for the expressed purpose of tormenting someone over a sustained period of time.

    Drew was dealing with someone she knew was emotionally vulnerable and unstable, and she took advantage of that. If you simply ignore those factors, you'll never get a full understanding of what actually happened. This wasn't some anonymous flame war among adults (or even children).

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus