You may have heard about Lori Drew, a scumbag/overly active parent who used MySpace to befriend and then bully Megan Meier, a 13 year old girl. Meier was a nemesis of Drew's teenage daugher.
Lori Drew pretended to be a 16-year old boy interested in Meier. Possibly as a result of some of Drew's carefully crafted, malicious messages, Meier committed suicide in October, 2006. To be fair, Drew has since been found Not Guilty of intent to injure.
Now it's natural for all of us, me included, to want to send Drew (and other various cronies who shared her fake MySpace account) to prison. But what Drew did, in itself, was not a crime when she committed the act. That's NOT the outrage, however, since internet harassment is now against the law in MO and since federal prosecutors still decided to go after her. What's causing problems is that the Feds charged Drew under the auspices of a Federal anti-hacking statute. They argued that Drew was committing a FEDERAL CRIME simply by violating MySpace's Terms of Service.
So why should last week's guilty ruling concern you, assuming it is not overturned? Two big reasons:
- The first reason is that any website will now be able to write federal law. Anyone will be able to create arbitrary Terms of Service which are not subject to the legislative process, but can be used to prosecute you in federal court. In fact, it's the website owner that defines what is a violation of its terms of service. Or so says a laundry list of legal scholars who submitted an amicus brief via the EFF.
- The second reason is that you now owe me $75 or you're going to jail. Check my Terms of Service, sucker!