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Have you ever created a fictitious identity in order to access an Internet site? If so, you may have violated a federal criminal statute.

Megan Meier, aged 13, thought she was chatting online with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. In reality, she was communicating with Lori Drew, a 49-year-old mother who resided in the same St. Louis neighborhood. Drew claims that she created the fake identity and set up a MySpace account in order to “gather intelligence” about what was being said at school about her teenage daughter.

Megan was being treated for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and depression. Drew harassed, berated and belittled her. Megan”>Ten days ago, Drew was indicted by federal prosecutors who are employing a unique legal approach to hold her accountable for her actions and their consequences. Their novel approach has inspired legal commentators to recommend that “anyone who uses the Internet should be extremely wary.”

Unlike many states, Missouri did not have in place a law protecting its citizens from the type of conduct in which Drew is alleged to have engaged. So the U.S. Department of Justice has evoked the same law that is routinely used to prosecute computer hackers, charging Drew with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization in order to obtain information used to inflict emotional distress on Megan. MySpace’s terms of service prohibit users from providing false information when registering to use the site. The terms also bar solicitation of personal information from anyone under the age of 18 or to “harass, abuse, or harm another person.”

Drew faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of the four counts. This is the first time the hacking statute has been used to pursue a case arising out of the use of a social networking site.

If the approach proves successful, routine Internet behavior would be criminalized since users routinely create accounts and post information using pseudonyms for completely legitimate reasons, not the least being a desire to maintain anonymity and protect their privacy. However, violations of a website’s user agreement could lead to criminal prosecution, in addition to civil liability and, much more commonly, cancellation or deletion of the account.

Among the concerns raised by the prosecution’s approach are free speech and other Constitutional considerations, including due process, given that the typical unsuspecting computer user has no idea that, by utilizing a fake identity, he/she may be committing a crime.

The case is a “wake up call” to all Internet users. When registering for an account on any Internet site, you should carefully review the terms of service prior to clicking “I agree” (or similar verbiage) because users will be deemed to have read and understood those provisions before proceeding to access the site. It also raises serious concerns about Internet safety and security, and serves as yet another reminder to all bloggers and users of social networking services to behave responsibly online. Your freedom may depend upon it.


  1. The main problem with Drew is not that she created a false account but that she used it for committing the crime of “bringing to a suicide”. I suppose that it is her behavior that took her to jail, not creating the false account. I wonder if she’d have the same punishment if she’d do all this from a legal account or the punishment would be different.

    Polinas last blog post..Natural Skin Care Remedies May Provide More Relief Than Drugs

  2. I can not tell you how I cried when I learned of this case via television.
    I will never forget how the parents faces looked as they described finding their daughter in that closet.
    I’ll be passing this one on to the group pronto.
    Take care

    Francess last blog post..24 hour Apple Store Fifth Avenue, New York

  3. Every thing has positive and negitive side .But we should always take the positive and move ahead.I think more and more people are using internet for bad reasons which is why the parents these days are very much worried with their children.

    Andriss last blog post..Design a wedding ring online!

  4. I think this woman should SPEND A LONG LONG LONG TIME in jail! What she has done is insane for an adult….not that it is right for a teenager to have done what she did, but for a mom of a teenager, SHE IS DERANGED!
    5 years is not enough, I think THIS ADULT and MOTHER should spend many many hours in therapy.. What she has done is deplorable!

    I cried for the parents of the girl who committed suicide too. I have a 14 year old daughter and I KNOW how fragile they are at this age….without the ADD and depression they are so fragile…..any parent of a teenage daughter will know what I am talking about…

    SabineMs last blog post..Enjoying the great outdoors

  5. In my opinion, I think that parent, who was trying to protect her daughter, lost sight of her original intent and unfortunately has to pay the price. It would be great if all people (young & old) would use the internet with responsibility and care.

    carries last blog post..Happy Birthday

  6. I don’t think there is anyone who didn’t have a fictional identity at least once. But again, authorities have more important problems to deal with than arresting you for changing your name on an innocent form…

  7. travel certificates

    Yeah its a shame that the parents get the brunt of it But it is there job to protect there children, Sometimes that can be hard to do.

  8. apiksolutions

    After I read all of your articles, I’m agree with you

  9. Pingback: A Unique Legal Theory Serves as a Reminder to Blog Responsibly


    So many parts of story are important and scary. Great Post.

    I grabbed it to link to you.

    MAGGIE AT COFFEESHOPMAFIAs last blog post..A Unique Legal Theory Serves as a Reminder to Blog Responsibly

  11. I blame the unpersonalized relationships. People, especially children are spending way too much time using the Internet, and they are getting obsessed with it.

  12. Wow, I remember seeing this story on the news but it still is close to the heart. I don’t care if Megan was or wasn’t old enough to use Myspace, Lori knew who she was talking to and she was completely out of line. I agree that 5 years in jail isn’t enough. Lock her up for good.

  13. Gotta say this is a reli sad story… I tink one thing tht lead Drew faces the penalty is bcos of the words she said had made a young child committed suicide, as an adult she should never said those kinda things, too bad. This also alert the world tht on the Internet world, we shouldn’t trust ppl easily

  14. She should at least have murder charges brought against her in some way. If she hadn’t said anything that little girl would prolly still be alive. Wow. So she basically got off with a slap on the wrist.

    Jennys last blog post..Minimalism At It’s Finest

  15. All of this brings to light the fact that we really are not anonymous on the Internet. We can be found; we leave a calling card wherever we go. We can create bogus anonymous accounts to act out in anger or to be devious or even kind; our target audience can delete our comments and move on or find us and shut us down. The beautiful lesson is that we can be held accountable for all our words. (I think this gets a little weird when deleted blog posts come up in the Google cache, though. Do we really need every discarded rough draft ever composed online?) The simple lesson: if you can’t be nice, keep your mouth closed and your computer off.

    SandyCarlsons last blog post..Blog Your Blessings: Going for the Ride

  16. It’s the responsibility of all the bloggers that to follow the rules and regulations of the blogging community they belong to. They should not violate the rules and if they do so they will be expel from the community.
    It should be looked by the blogging community.

  17. It really is quite disgusting what this 49 year old woman did to a young girl of 13. So often its men been associated with acts of evil agaisnt the youth but it shows women can be just as vicious if not worse. Driving this young girl to hang herself was truely saddening. I feel sorry for her family.

  18. Myfinancebutler

    There might not currently be a law about this – but I agree that the mom should suffer full and severe consequences – getting a fictitious name and destroying the morale of a vulnerable teenager is simply sick, and insane, and can only come from the mind of a criminal. Hopefully she is being eaten my guilt right now, and being punished by her own conscience.

  19. Record Management

    its crazy how careful you have to be in todays world where anything you say could bring up a lawsuit against you.

  20. That was unbelievably cruel. To think that an adult would stoop so low-she deserves the harshest punishment they can dole out.

  21. She definitely has to get the heaviest punishment that can be meted out on her. An innocent life was snuffed out because of her stupidity; the concerned authorities should better do right in giving the proper justice for the sake of Megan.

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  22. Monavie wrote:”I agree that 5 years in jail isn’t enough. Lock her up for good.”

    Its more like 20 years in prison. The article says: “Drew faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of the four counts.”

    But the way the system is ran these days – she will keep the time she was in jail, time off for good behavior, etc. and be out in 5 years.

    This is the first time I had heard about this, and its very sad. I can not believe that a mother would do this to a child.

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  24. There is one life and we should be permitted to spend it in our own way. I think she should be punished more strictly.qaswers last blog post..Nancy Ajram News:

  25. Rugsdoneright

    I think the internet can be a dangerous place — because it gives you so much freedom, and so much power. We must all learn to be responsible in using the internet, and using it to benefit, not harm, others.

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