Will the arcane “terms of service” on Web sites be the basis for more criminal prosecutions? That’s what experts are asking after last week’s conviction of Missourian Lori Drew for violating rules of the social networking site MySpace in a case that led to a suicide.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that legal experts advise against agreeing to any contract without first reading it, and the same legal experts also admit that they don’t spend much time poring over “terms of service” agreements. Drew lawyer H. Dean Steward is trying to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors in Los Angeles over-reached and that Drew could only be prosecuted if she both read MySpace’s terms and knowingly and intentionally violated them. Internet experts have expressed concern that the case, if successful, could have a chilling effect on a medium where anonymity is part of the landscape. But it also may prompt some people to give a little more thought before clicking “Yes.”