Thursday, December 4, 2008

Three High Profile Internet Safety Cases

Conviction in Megan Meier Case

There has been a conviction in the closely watched cyberbullying trial of Lori Drew. You can read about the Lori Drew case in an earlier post in this blog. The synopsis of the story is that a young girl named Meghan Meier committed suicide after being duped on MySpace by a former friend and her mother. Megan had a falling out with her friend, so her former friend and her friend's mother, Lori, and another woman created a fake profile on MySpace to trick Megan. They created a boy named Josh who befriended Megan and then abruptly ended their relationship. Megan, who was already battling depression, committed suicide shortly after the incident. Lori Drew was convicted on three misdemeanor counts of identity fraud.

The conviction, if it stands, could have far-reaching implications for all kinds of websites on the internet. While the act of the Drew family is considered "cyberbullying", Lori Drew wasn't actually convicted of cyberbullying. The conviction is for computer fraud and stems from her breaking the agreement of the terms of service from MySpace for misrepresenting her identity. One of the defenses' main arguments is that Lori Drew checked the Terms of Service box when she created the MySpace account, but never actually read the terms of service and therefore didn't know what she was doing is illegal. There is also an interesting article in which the forewoman of the jury from the case states that the majority of jurors wanted to convict Lori Drew on felony charges.

Julie Amero Spyware Case is Closed

You may remember the case of Julie Amero. She was the substitute teacher who was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for endangering minors in 2004. Prosecutors argued that Amero had put students at risk by exposing them to pornographic images that were popping up on a classroom computer. After reading about the case, some computer security professionals came to Julie's defense, saying that she was a victim of Spyware on a poorly configured computer. Amero was granted a new trial and recently decided to settle out of court. She pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and has had her teaching credentials revoked. You can read an interview with Amero about the entire incident from Computerworld.

Harvard Law Professor takes on the RIAA

Well known Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson has decided to take on the way the Recording Industry prosecutes college students for illegaly downloading music. The RIAA will usually send a letter to the college student asking for between $3000 - $5000 and an assurance that the illegal downloading will stop. If they do not comply, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At least one judge is finding that these students and their families do not have lawyers and do not know their full legal rights, and therefore pay the settlement. Nesson and his law students contend that the RIAA is using civil litigation to punish alleged criminal activity, which in their view is unconstitutional. It should be very interesting to see how this case pans out.

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