Do you remember the name Megan Meier? She was a vibrant thirteen-year-old living in Missouri that decided to take her own life. A year after her death, an investigation revealed her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website MySpace. It began when Megan started “internet dating” another MySpace user, by the name of Josh Evans. I use the term “internet dating” because the two never met in person, nor spoke on the phone. Unknown to Megan, Josh was a fictitious person. In reality, it was Megan’s former friend Sarah and her mother, Lori Drew. The two created the account in order to “mess with Megan”, to see if she was bad mouthing Lori’s daughter. Unfortunately, Megan was a troubled girl receiving ongoing psychiatric treatment since third grade, so when “Josh” ended the relationship, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Why did it take a year for Megan’s parents to find out why they lost their daughter? Well, prompting their own investigation, weeks after Megan’s death, rumors began surfacing pointing the finger at the Drew family and friend. With ongoing media coverage, the FBI had no choice but to move their investigation along. I can’t help but wonder, if MySpace were to have sent the FBI all of the IP addresses connected to the “Josh Evans” account, would there have been a different outcome in the case? Imagine how swiftly the investigation would have been, prior to the “Freedom of Speech” debate that began amongst bloggers and parents.
Lori Drew was indicted and convicted of violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 2008 over the matter. Her conviction was reversed on appeal in 2009. Of course this case ignited several jurisdictions to enact or to consider legislation prohibiting harassment over the Internet. There have been many cases of cyberstalking/cyberbullying that do not hold the social media sites accountable for the information that could lead to “cyberjustice”.
I, myself, fell victim to cyberstalking 6 months ago. Stripped of my Mrs. District of Columbia United States 2014 crown, I received no assistance from Facebook or social forum sites when I asked for the IP address connected to this jealous lowlife. It took a serious investigation after the fact to pinpoint the individual responsible for attempting to ruin my reputation. There is no doubt in my mind if Facebook would have forward the information behind the fake account posting rumors, I would still have my crown.
Sure, you can’t compare a pageant and a suicide case, but you do see the common thread. Should there be accountability and transparency for social sites? Pretending to be someone you are not online to hurt another person sounds fraudulent to me. Could a piece of legislation limit the unwanted blows of progressive technology? In a recent study by The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), who believes that social media sites should most definitely be held responsible for keeping bullying off their cheap hosting sites, 81% of respondents feel cyberbullying is a detrimental to the overall mental health of children and teens. 12% of them feel cyberbullying is more harmful than traditional bullying. It may be hard for social sites to prevent cyberbullying/cyberstalking, or is it? From hacking bank accounts, to leaked nude photos, should Congress consider keeping up with the times?