Sunday, November 18, 2007

cyber-bullying -- myspace suicide

cy·ber·bul·ly·ing [ˈsī-bər ˈbu̇-lē iŋ] - v
the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, pagers, cell phones, or other forms of information technology to deliberately harass, threaten, or intimidate someone. (

How amazing it is that with all the talk of cyberbullying nowadays, it proves almost imposible to find the definition. If you look at any of the dictionaries, there is nothing. The pronunciation is pretty hard to come by too. In this age of technology where majority of teens and young adults have MySpace or Facebook, cyberbullying is something that everyone who engages in such activities is prone to.

It always seems that at first, you're set on the idea that you wont add anyone that you don't know, blah blah blah. But, within time you let your guard down and you add people that you have no relation to for one reason or another. I'll admit I did that, there's probably only a couple people on my friends list on MySpace that I actually don't know (other than the bands).

I think I'm going to try out something new. Rather than the normal write about whatever happens to pop in my head around the time a see fit to blog, I'm going to pick a news story or something of the sort that interests me. I still want to define the word at the top since for some reason that entertains me, but I'd like to try and report on a story and get in that habit. And hopefully since the news never stops, I'll always have something to write about.

Now onto todays installment on cyberbullying. This past Friday's Anderson Cooper 360° really caught my eye. I must say that I normally have a very hard time watching when Soledad O'Brien is the host, but I was really interested that day and the emotion that she added to the story made it all the better. Gary Tuchman did a peice which they titled "Deadly Cyberbullying - MySpace Suicide." Perhaps that is what pulled me in.

More than a year ago, thirteen-year-old Megan Meier's parents allowed her to make a MySpace page under their supervision. All seemed well, and she even made a friend, his name was "Josh Evans." The two hit it off and commented each other constantly, he often commented on how beautiful she was and how lucky he was to know someone like her. Within time, Megan's parents Ron and Tina Meier's parental instinct kicked in. They began to wonder about this fellow that their daughter spent all her time talking to. Tina Meier went to the cyber crimes department of the local police station to see if there was any way to find out if Josh was actually a real person. No such luck.

One day, all hell broke loose. Megan and Josh got in a huge fight. Ron Meier stated in an interview on 360 with Gary Tuchman that Josh had even said " the wold would be a better off place without you and have a shitty rest of your life." Upon that she went to her mom for consolidation. However, her mom was mad too, but at the language that Megan was using and that Megan didn't sign off when told to. Megan, who had suffered from depression since the third grade was infuriated and ran off to her room.

Soon, things seemed all too quiet. Mrs. Meier went up to check on their daughter when Mr. Meier heard a "bloodcurdling scream." His wife had found Megan hanging by a belt from her closet. Her parents cut the belt to get their daugher down and following that performed CPR. The next morning Megan Meier was pronounced dead.

Upon returning home from the hospital Ron Meier wanted to find out who this Josh fellow, who in a round about way killed their daughter, was. Josh Evan's MySpace page had been deleted. A month later, a neighbor told them who Josh Evans really was, and that "he" was even at Megan's funeral. The reality of it was, Josh Evans was just the creation of a woman that lived down the street. The woman made the profile to befriend Megan and try and find out information on a dispute between Megan and her own daughter. In a police report, the lady even acknowledged this. Tina and Ron Meier went to speak with the mother who "loaded the gun" for their daughter to kill herself. The response they were given, "give it a rest."

According to the County Prosecutor's Office (CPO), the County Sherriff's Office, and the FBI, there's nothing that can be done. Megan had struggled with depression and didn't have to kill herself. Recently the CPO told CNN that they would review the case.

When I first heard the story I thought that the woman should be charged with something, I don't know what though. She was the one who made Megan so depressed that she bumped herself off. She knew that the girl had a history of depression and the conversations with "Josh Evans" made her happy. It's sick that someone would do that and in the end just say "give it a rest." I'm pretty darn sure that if the situation was the other was around she wouldn't be giving it a rest. But now, I may have changed my mind on the outcome of this.

I guess simply this could be the case of person A making person B so depressed that they commit suicide. That happens quite often. There are many cases of people who break up with their significant other and can't or just wont try to get through life after that. I hate to use it as an example but Carter Cooper makes a good one and he's the first that comes to mind. In situations like this there is nothing that can be done. If A and B were engaged the courts could do something about it, before B commits suicide. In Business Law I remember learning that an engagement is essentially a leagally binding contract, as crazy as it sounds you can be sued for breaking it. That's probably the only time that the courts would get involved in those messy relationship cases.

As much as I'd like there to be justice for the Meier family, I don't see it happening anytime soon if ever. Their lawyers told them to be quite, but as you can tell, they're not. As Gary Tuchman said, "maybe [their] story could help the welfare of another child."


Tanabe said...

Wow, that story is nothing but total bullshit... Seriously, how can anyone just let that go?! Things like that really make you doubt the validity of the justice system. It makes me wish life was like a sitcom or something; the bad guys always get served what they deserve...

Anonymous said...

I was totally freaked out by this story. I found your blog because of the comment you left on that "Megan had it coming" bs. I really hope something happens to those people. That is really scary.

Danny Vice said...

On Wednesday, October 21st, city officials enacted an ordinance designed to address the public outcry for justice in the Megan Meier tragedy. The six member Board of Aldermen made Internet harassment a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

Does this new law provide any justice for Megan? Does this law provide equitable relief for a future victim or actually weaken the current law?

I reject the premise of this new law and believe it completely misses the mark. The reasoning behind this opinion is that city officials have consistently treated this case as an Internet harassment case instead of a child welfare/exploitation case.

Classifying this case a harassment issue completely fails to address the most serious aspects of the methods Lori Drew employed to lead this youth to her demise. The Vice disagrees that harassment was even a factor in this case until just a couple of days before Megan's death.

Considering this case a harassment issue is incorrect because during the 5 weeks Lori Drew baited and groomed her victim, the attention was NOT unwanted attention. It was not harassment at all. It was invited attention. Megan participated in the conversations willingly because she was lured, manipulated and exploited without her knowledge.

This law willfully sets a precedent that future child exploiters and predators can use to reclassify their cases to harassment issues. In effect, the law enacted to give Megan justice, may make her even more vulnerable. So long as the child victim doesn't tell the predator to stop, even a harassment charge may not stick with the right circumstances and a good defender.

Every aspect of this case follows the same procedural requirement used to convict a Child Predator. A child was manipulated by an adult. A child was engaged in sexually explicit conversation (as acknowledged by Lori Drew herself). An adult imposed her will on a child by misleading her, using a profile designed to sexually or intimately attract the 13 year old Megan.

Lori then utilized the power she had gained over this child to cause significant distress and endangerment to that child. She even stipulated to many of these activities in the police report she filed shortly after Megan's death.

We can go on and on here, but the parallels between this case and many other child predator cases that are successfully prosecuted bear striking similarities.

Child Predator laws do not require much more than simply proving that an adult has engaged a minor in sexually explicit conversation. Lori Drew has already stipulated that her conversations with Megan were sometimes sexual for a child Megan's age.

City officials who continue to ignore this viable, documented admission and continue to address this issue as harassment are intentionally burying their heads in the sand, when the solution is staring them right in the face. Why?

On June 5th, 2006, Governor Matt Blunt signed into law stiff penalties for convicted sex offenders. The Vice believes that officials continually reject a child predator classification of this case in order to keep the penalty of this offense out of this harsher realm.

Opponents of this law are active in defeating this law not by changing it, but by disqualifying cases like Megan's from ever being heard.

There are several other child exploitation laws on the books. To date, none of them have even been considered by City, State and Federal officials in this case. I'm outraged that a motion was never even filed, so that the case could at least be argued before a judge or jury.

Those satisfied with this response out of Missouri officials need to think through the effect this law will truly have. It quite honestly has the potential to directly undermine Jessica's law. It quiet easily gives prosecutors a way out of prosecuting child endangerment and child predator cases in the future.

Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing here.

Danny Vice