In Dardenne Prairie, Mo., an upper-middle-class enclave of about 7,400 some 35 miles northwest of St. Louis, Megan Meier, 35, struck up an online friendship with a boy on MySpace. The boy abruptly turned on Megan and ended it. That night, Megan, who had previously battled depression, committed suicide. It turned out that Neighbor Lori Drew had pretended to be 16-year-old boy friend to gain the trust of Megan, who had been fighting with her daughter.
Local and federal prosecutors could not find a statute applicable to the case, sys the Los Angeles Times. The Drews, who have mounted cameras and recording devices onto the roof of their house to track the movements of their neighbors, declined to comment. Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy lawyer and director of WiredSafety.org, points to one federal statute that may apply in the Meier case: the telecommunications harassment law. Amended in 2005, the law prohibits people from anonymously using the Internet with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person. On Wednesday evening, Dardenne Prairie’s Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a law that makes cyber-harassment a misdemeanor –with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, $500 fine or both for each violation. It’s the most stringent punishment available to the city. “We’re all in shock,” said Mayor Pam Fogarty. “If I have anything to say about it, we’ll never have our hands tied legally like this again.”