A high-profile Internet legal case in Los Angeles will have a chilling effect on users of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook if the verdict holds up on appeal, legal experts told the Christian Science Monitor. A on Wednesday convicted Lori Drew – the defendant in the so-called “MySpace Suicide Case” – of three counts of illegally accessing computers. The case drew attention because Drew had created a phony MySpace profile of a teenage boy who criticized a 13-year-old girl who subsequently hung herself.
“What happened to Megan Meier was a tragedy, not a crime,” says Andrew Grossman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He added that the verdict “leaves all Internet users at risk of prosecution under federal law. It is a prime example of overcriminalization.” Another esxpert, law Prof. Michael Scott of Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles, said, “Lori Drew did not do the key acts that the prosecution alleged, but rather a third party did, so it seems strange that the person who pulled the trigger is not prosecuted but the one standing next to her is.” Said Sheldon Rampton of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, WI: “A lot of people do things on the Internet that are not nice, but that doesn’t mean they should all be criminalized.”