Monday, August 31, 2009

Judge: TOS Violations Not a Crime; Issues Final Ruling in MySpace Suicide Case

U.S. District Judge George Wu has reaffirmed in writing his oral ruling in July, when he acquitted Lori Drew of isdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization in the Megan Meier MysSpace suicide case.

Megan Meier committed suicide in October of 2006 after a MySpace romance went bad. The romance itself and the boy involved were in fact fictional, reportedly perpetrated as a vindictive prank by Drew, the mother of a former friend who lived down the street.

At the time of Megan Meier's suicide, there was no cyberbullying law in Missouri. Because no case could be had at the state level, federal prosecutors attempted to prosecute her under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). They asserted that her violation of MySpace's ToS was equivalent to hacking.

Lori Drew was onvicted of three misdemeanors, of accessing a computer without authorization. Wu threw those out last month, but stated that it was not final until he issued a written ruling. In his ruling, Wu said:
"It is unclear that every intentional breach of a website's terms of service would be or should be held to be equivalent to an intent to access the site without authorization or in excess of authorization. This is especially the case with MySpace and similar Internet venues which are publicly available for access and use."
Although the "hoax" was certainly heinous, organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) were concerned that the case would set a precedent allowing ToS violations to be prosecuted under anti-hacking laws, and will welcome this final ruling.
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