Missouri Legislators Outlaw Cyber Stalking - InformationWeek

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5/19/2008
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Missouri Legislators Outlaw Cyber Stalking

The bill was passed in response to the death of Megan Meier, the Missouri teen who hanged herself after receiving taunts and insults on MySpace.

Missouri legislators have outlawed cyber harassment after a teen in their state killed herself within an hour of receiving taunts and insults on MySpace.

Federal prosecutors said Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Missouri, posed as a teenage boy who feigned romantic interest in 13-year-old Megan Meier. Then, during an online chat, the "boy" told Meier the world would be a better place without her. Less than an hour later, Meier hanged herself. She died the next day.

Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Drew, a Missouri mother, on charges relating to the case. The case was filed by federal authorities in Los Angeles because MySpace has servers there.

Drew is charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on the victim.

The indictment marks the first time a social networking site user has been prosecuted on federal charges related to accessing protected computers. Missouri investigators said they could not bring charges since no state laws had been violated. It's unclear whether the federal laws will hold up.

The new Missouri bill, which has to be signed by Gov. Matt Blunt before it becomes law, would add computers, text messaging, and other electronic communications to the state's harassment laws, barring Internet harassment and cyber stalking. It also upgrades stalking charges to allow felony prosecution in some cases.

Blunt is likely to sign the bill since he urged lawmakers to pass the measure, which was based in part on recommendations by an Internet Harassment Task Force that Blunt formed in response to Meier's suicide.

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