Thursday, November 20, 2008

The MySpace Hoax Trial

I have to admit that I do not understand this legal case against the woman who is being tried for having misused computer access to torment a teenage girl who subsequently killed herself.

I do not understand why it's about computer use at all. Either she's guilty of contributing to the girl's suicide or not. Either contributing to the girl's suicide is punishable by law or it's not. What does the computer have to do with it?

Look at it this way: What if she'd written letters and sent them through the US Postal Service, with the same basic intention of impersonating a boy to attract the girl's affection and then cruelly insulting her so that the girl killed herself? Would that be punishable by law? Or if laws against a misuse of the Postal Service would be involved in that case, what if the notes were conveyed some other way, dropped at an agreed-upon drop-off location perhaps?

One day in October 2006, Meier said, when she called home to see how Megan was doing, her daughter was crying because "Josh" and two other girls were saying mean things about her online, Meier said.

When Meier arrived home, Megan showed her a message from "Josh." It said the world would be a better place without her in it, Meier testified.
What if the same sorts of things were actually said by a real Josh and two other girls, say at school, where unfortunately such cruelties are commonplace? But then what if they admitted to having treated the girl that way because this woman had asked them to?

What if a young man had in person done the same sort of thing to the girl, pretended to be interested in her and then cruelly insulted her and the girl killed herself? What if he had done it at the behest of this woman who herself is accused of doing it through the internet? Who would be guilty of what? What would the law have to say about it?

I'm trying to isolate the factor of guilt in the exchange of messages that seems to be obscured by the emphasis on the medium used in the transactions.

The point is, what are the laws concerning impersonation, impersonation with intent to cause mental distress, conspiring with others to the same end and so on? Aren't these the real issues? The use of the internet is just a red herring.


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