When Lori Drew was brought before a Missouri Court, there was no standard addressing cyberbullying or in this case cyber-harassment. The difference between these two terms is that cyberbullying occurs between children or teens, while cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is the result of an adult harassing another adult or exploiting a child.
Cyberbullying is a serious epidemic in the United States. In the case of United States v. Lori Drew, this was the chance for the Supreme Court to set down some serious guidelines regarding the issue. Some say that the Supreme Court all the way down to the Missouri Court failed miserably in addressing this. Instead, they contend that some weak standard about violating a Terms of Conditions on a social networking website sets a precedent that allows website owners to make their own laws and prosecute accordingly.
Here's a quick recap on Lori Drew. Lori Drew was a 48-year-old mother that had a 15-year-old daughter. They lived in the same neighborhood as another clinically depressed 15-year-old child named Megan Meier. Lori Drew decided to pose as a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans and start a romantic interlude online with Megan. Her goal? She wanted to find out what Megan really thought about her daughter.
Drew continued to communicate with the child and things got ugly. She began to tell Megan that "he" was hearing ugly rumors about her and, "The world would be a better place without you…" This resulted in the suicide of Megan Meier.
Drew was brought up under some fuzzy charges of the Computer Fraud Act that were later dismissed because they were vague. MySpace decided to sue in violation of their Terms and Conditions and won three counts.
Should Missouri Court or Supreme Court have stepped in? Quite possibly there could have been a better precedent. Different groups are campaigning as we speak to address the poor standards in legislation regarding this and many other examples of cyberbullying.
In a world where children spend more time on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, the results of some of these websites are detrimental to a child's self-esteem. Think of schoolyard bullying only a step further. In some cases, Internet savvy children are able to create a whole web 2.0 property that allows children to vote on the fattest, ugliest, or most promiscuous child in their middle school!
Parents can take matters into their own hands. Monitor your children's activity. If you suspect cyberbullying, retrieve an address and take to a national database for records that can do a reverse IP address lookup.