Drew (tentatively) acquitted in MySpace suicide case

A federal judge today tentatively acquitted Lori Drew, the Missouri woman convicted for her involvement in the MySpace “cyberbullying” hoax that allegedly resulted in a young girl’s suicide.  If it sticks, the acquittal will help reverse the momentous change in online liability that Drew’s earlier guilty verdict threatened to set in motion.

Last November, a jury convicted Drew of three misdemeanor violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, which is essentially an anti-hacking law.  Commentors widely criticized the convictions, as the case’s logic seemed to criminalize any violation of a website’s Terms of Service (see Marc’s Satyricon post, CMLP, Threat Level, and numerous links therein).

As Judge George Wu pointed out in announcing his tenative decision, such a result is probably unconstitutional.  Terms of Service include an infinite variety of provisions — most of which have little bearing on criminal acts — and few web users ever read them.

Stripped of the emotionally charged facts regarding the fraud and suicide, Drew’s crime was nothing other than failing to submit “truthful and accurate” registration information when creating a MySpace profile.  She would have been no less liable for misstating her height.

Note that the acquittal will not take effect until Judge Wu issues a written decision.  Until then, keep an eye out for the flood of commentary that will no doubt arise regarding the issue.

3 Responses to Drew (tentatively) acquitted in MySpace suicide case

  1. popehat says:

    Inside baseball:

    The United States attorney himself — Thomas O’Brien, an amoral feculant climber with a redwood-sized chip on his shoulder who is roundly despised by current and former AUSAs, and who hates them in return — showboated by trying this case himself. That makes this result — which is absolutely the right one — all the more sweet.

    Meanwhile, Lori Drew is scum. But only totalitarians think that all immoral conduct should be punished by the state.

  2. Rhys says:

    Gotta agree with this one. If it were a criminal offense just to be a worthless slimeball nearly every city in America would be depopulated by now.

  3. Cute Linda says:

    Nice Site! Very professional looking. Thanks

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