LJWorld.com weblogs Linux Chick Misses Her Kansas Home
Bad News for Internet Legal Precedents: Lori Drew Indictment
I'd like to take a moment to send a warm message to the friends and family of Megan Meier on their tragic loss. What a tragedy and while we never met Megan personally, we mourn with you. You are in my prayers.When I first read about the 41-year-old woman impersonating a 16-year-old boy to torment young Megan over MySpace, only hours before the young girl killed herself, I was enraged. I wished the woman could be publicly stoned for her lack of tact and overall disgustingly immature behavior.She's from Misery, too. Figures. (Sorry, couldn't resist the low belt. I did smack my hand, though so it won't happen again.)Reading now that the woman was actually indicted for computer fraud, I'm troubled.Were Lori Drew's actions immoral? Absolutely. Illegal? I'm not sure. What did she do to break the law? Violating MySpace Terms of Service by creating a fictitious account and harassing someone? Apparently.We will never rid cyberspace of fictitious accounts and we shouldn't want to. It's not only a privacy nightmare, it's a security one.Here are the questions MySpace asks you when you want to sign up:1. First and last name 2. Zip code3. Birth date (including year)I understand why they do it. It's a CYA thing. They need to ask you to be truthful, so that they assure authorities they did everything in their power to protect minors. First name: Linux, last name: Chick is a fictitious account. I will never opt to sacrifice my anonymity here. It's not that I'm ashamed of what I say, it's a privacy issue. No way, I'm posting to global cyberspace what city I live in, real birth date, and valid first and last name. Call me crazy or maybe I take even minimal precautions to protect myself from theft.I'm definitely not providing this information to all my social networking sites to be stored heaven-knows-where waiting to be hacked. It's not that I believe we have some kind of right to be anonymous on any social networking site we choose. For sure, we don't. Service providers are businesses, too. They can set up whatever restrictions they like (within the permits of the law). If providers don't like something I do with their services revoke my privileges. It's well within their right.Barring child pornography and other freedom of speech violations privilege revocation used to be the end of it.But if we make these Terms Of Service any old company can make up somehow legally binding, all social networking servers instantly become even more a goldmine for identity thieves than they already are, and we instantly have a security nightmare.Just watch how quickly the courts get clogged with TOS violators and identity theft cases when we make any TOS violation a criminal offense.I also have a hard time legally attributing blame to an individual for someone else's suicide. Exactly how responsible are we for how people feel about how we treat them? MySpace doesn't tolerate "cyber-bullying." Great. But does that mean bullying and being mean to people should be illegal, just in case they kill themselves?It's a bad idea. Comments?