A former federal prosecutor has decided to take on his ex-employer in defending a woman against charges that she violated federal laws in allegedly creating a MySpace account used to bully a teenage girl who committed suicide.
Orin Kerr, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, was a criminal trial attorney in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Department of Justice as well as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Kerr wrote on the Volokh Conspiracy blog that the government was essentially charging Drew with criminal trespassing on MySpace's server for allegedly providing false information to open a MySpace account under the false identity of a nonexistent teenage boy. Kerr said this essentially made it a federal crime to violate any online terms of service contract.
1. I'm sympathetic to Kerr's perspective on this... it would be better for everyone if TOS violations did not create criminal liability.
2. I think the DOJ is only prosecuting this because the mob demands it and I think they pulled this strategy out of a hat because its plausible enough to litigate but they intend to loose. If they intended to win they would have chosen something less radical to charge this woman with. Lets hope they don't accidentally win.
3. I agree with one of the comments in the attached thread... that if an adult man created a MySpace account posing as a teenage boy and made false romatic advances toward a teenage girl, and that girl committed suicide, that man would be prosecuted under some sort of sex crimes/child predation statute such as attempted child molestation with huge prison sentences and permanent sex offender registry associated with it. The fact that the exact same crime is treated in a completely different way because the perpetrator is a woman speaks to the absurdity of our political response to these issues on the whole.
4. I think people care about this case because the media has drawn attention to it, and I think the only reason the media cares is because it has something to do with the Internet, and plays on fears that parents have about what their children are doing on the Internet. Bullies drive people to suicide every day in the United States. Literally several times a day. This case is not exceptional.
5. Are bullies legally culpable if they drive someone to suicide? I'm not sure how I feel about that question as a policy matter, but my understanding is that as a legal matter in general they are not. I don't see why the internet should change that. The internet has absolutely nothing to do with it. The same rules ought to apply whether this woman sent emails to her victim or she sent letters through the mail.
6. If we think bullies ought to be culpable when their victims commit suicide, than we need new state laws across the board. That means letting this one go, no matter how incensed the pitch fork carrying mob is. No Ex-Post Facto laws!
Note that this is different from my earlier read on this. I don't think this falls into the definition of what the law means by fraud because Drew did not cause economic harm.
Former Justice Dept. Prosecutor Joins Defense in MySpace Suicide Case | Threat Level