A Missouri woman who was convicted of three misdemeanors for her role in an online harassment of a teenager who committed suicide has been provisionally acquitted.
Lori Drew conspired with her daughter Sarah Drew and Ashley Grills to gather information about thirteen year old Megan Meier and humiliate her. This was done in retribution for Meier allegedly spreading gossip and rumors about Drew's daughter.
The three created the fictional MySpace persona of "Josh Evans" and befriended Meier. Eventually the Evans persona turned hostile, with the final message sent to Meier reading: "Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you."
Meier responded with a message reading “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” She was found hanging by her neck twenty minutes after her last message was sent.
Federal District Judge George Wu provisionally threw out the convictions because Drew's conviction on illegal access hinged on the fact that she violated MySpace's Terms of Service by creating a false account. Creating a false account is not a criminal offence, and Judge Wu did not want to create a precedent that could be used to convict millions of other Internet users.
"This is conduct done every day by millions and millions of people," Judge Wu rationalized.
Lori Drew was not directly charged with causing Megan's death, but was instead indicted under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The case has been a rallying cry for anti-online harassment legislation. Assemblyman Ted Lieu introduced Assembly Bill 86 in the California legislature in August 2008, and Congresswoman Linda T. Sanchez introduced H.R. 6123 as the "Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act" to amend Title 18 of the United States Code on May 22 2008.