Feeds

Conviction overturned in MySpace suicide case

Good news for net users

SANS - Survey on application security programs

A federal judge on Thursday tentatively overturned convictions against a mother accused of using MySpace to bully a 13-year-old girl who went on to hang herself to death.

US District Judge George Wu tentatively acquitted Lori Drew, 50, of three misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization. To the dismay of many, she was originally charged with four felony counts stemming from her role in creating a fake MySpace profile, which is a violation of the site's terms of service. Prosecutors argued her skirting of the rules amounted violations of the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Although not final until filed in writing, the ruling is good news for anyone who uses the internet. Drew faced three years in prison and a $300,000 fine in the case. If allowed to stand, it could have made criminals out of anyone who has ever entered a false email address, age, or surname while registering for an online service. That point wasn't lost on Wu.

"You could prosecute pretty much anyone who violated terms of service," he said during a Thursday court hearing, according to Wired.com. "It basically leaves it up to a web site owner to determine what is a crime...and therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract," he added, according to the Associated Press.

Drew was accused of participating in the MySpace hoax in an attempt to find out if a neighbor, 13-year-old Megan Meier, was spreading negative gossip about Drew's daughter. Using a picture of a sandy-haired boy with broad shoulders, she helped concoct a boy named Josh, who over a few months used MySpace messages to befriend Meier. Eventually, one of the other participants in the hoax caused Josh to send a message that said the world would be better without her.

Meier hanged herself in her bedroom closet a few hours later.

MySpace terms of service compel users to provide factual information about themselves and to refrain from using information obtained from the site to harass others. Prosecutors from the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles argued that violating those terms to gain access to MySpace services was tantamount to illegal computer hacking.

It's fair to say the decision to charge Drew has been controversial, not because most approve of what Drew was accused of doing, only that she did nothing illegal. Last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology and other groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) in the case arguing it could set dangerous precedents. The prosecution was all the more startling, given federal attorneys in Missouri, where both Drew and Meier lived, had declined to bring a case.

Prosecutors say they won't decide whether to appeal the acquittal until after they read the written ruling, which could be filed as soon as next week. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.