02 Dic MySpace Conviction Could Have Dangerous Ramifications
NewsFactorNetwork, By Patricia Resende, December 1, 2008
The prosecution celebrated a partial victory as Lori Drew was found guilty of three of the lesser charges she faced stemming from a MySpace hoax that resulted in a 13-year-old girl’s suicide.
While most of the attention was focused on the drama that ensued because of the suicide of Megan Meier, the outcome of the landmark case may have lasting effects on how people use Web sites. Drew was found guilty of accessing a computer without authorization and may serve up to three years in jail — and could pay up to $300,000. The jurors could not reach a verdict in the felony conspiracy charge against Drew, and U.S. District Court Judge George Wu declared a mistrial, according to the Associated Press. If Drew was found guilty, what does this mean for others out there who create accounts under false names? Legal experts say it means users can face the same charges that were brought against Drew if they violate a Web site’s terms-of-service agreement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other public-policy groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and 14 Internet law professors, argued against the criminal charges in August, calling them a dramatic misapplication of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with “far-ranging consequences.” The CDT filed a motion with the court, warning that using the law to prosecute Drew had dangerous ramifications for Internet users. The groups are not happy with the guilty verdict. “This really is a lose-lose situation,” said John Morris of the CDT. “The users have to pay much more attention to look at what the terms are, and this decision decreases the ability to protect their own privacy.” Companies will also get more push-back on terms-of-service agreements, Morris said. “I think some people will avoid sites because of terms-of-service agreements, and it would not surprise me if we see more litigation,” he said.