MySpace Bully's Case Sets Risky Course: Experts

Site's obscure contract, which most ignore, is key to the case
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 16, 2008 2:43 PM CDT
Tina Meier, left, describes weaknesses in Missouri law before the Internet Harassment Task Force Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007, in Jefferson City, Mo.    (AP Photo/Kelley McCall)
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(Newser) – A criminal indictment over MySpace bullying that led to a Missouri teen's suicide sets an unusual and perhaps dangerous legal precedent, experts say. Because her activities violated the site’s terms of use, Lori Drew faces charges of computer fraud and abuse related to the death of Megan Meier, Wired reports—and the charges involve a contract that few users even bother to read.

Federal prosecutors, pressured to take criminal action against Drew, arrived at the charges for lack of any other legal leverage, says another analyst. “I think it’s scary and it’s wrong,” she said. “Empowering terms of use to be key pieces of evidence in criminal matters,” when most users see them as purely contractual or civil, “should be done carefully,” another legal expert added.