Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Is Cyberspace Such a Cruel Place?

The story made news all over the world, and then, today while I was surfing the net I finally read something that made me believe that justice may have been served.

This story begins in early Fall of 2006 in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri; thirteen year old Megan Meier began communicating online on MySpace with a 16 year old boy named Josh Evans. Evans wrote that he was from Florida originally and had just recently moved to Megan's neighborhood. He also wrote that he was being home-schooled and did not yet have a phone number that he could share with her so they could talk. The two became online friends and communicated online regularly.

Then in mid October of 2006, Josh Evans' messages to Megan began to change. He wrote, " I don't know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I've heard that you are not very nice to your friends," and "the world would be a better place without you". Meier told her mother Christina Meier about the messages, and the two reportedly argued over Meier's use of vulgar language in her online responses to the messages.

(Megan Meier photo courtesy of Tom Gannam/ AP)
Twenty minutes following the argument, on October 15, 2006, Christina Meier found her daughter hanging in her closet. Despite efforts to revive her, Megan was pronounced dead the following day. Megan had previously been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and depression and struggled with feeling overweight.

Josh Evans had been her outlet, her family even said that since communicating with him, her spirits had been lifted. The once described, "bubbly, goofy girl," by her parents had become bubbly and goofy again, and then her feelings were hurt and she was dead.

There was only one problem, six weeks following her death, Ronald and Christina Meier (Megan's parents) found out that Josh Evans was all a lie, in fact he didn't even exist.

Josh Evans was the creation of a parent, Lori Janine Drew who's daughter was once friends with Megan Meier. Drew created the MySpace account with the knowledge of her daughter and characterized what happened as a "joke". She told police that she planned on "gaining Megan's confidence and finding out what Megan felt about her daughter and other people".

The neighborhood mom who found out about this cruel joke and told the Meier's said Lori Drew even "laughed about it" and had every intention of "mess(ing) with Megan".

In December of 2007 Missouri prosecutors decided not to file any charges against Drew and they cited lack of evidence. However, federal authorities in California did not feel the same way and decided to take on the case because MySpace is a subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media based in Beverly Hills.

At the same time that this was happening, Meier's aunt, Vicki Dunn had just read an article written by Steve Pokin in the St. Charlies Journal about internet harassment (also referred to as cyber crimes). Dunn contacted Pokin and shared Meier's story and then it became international news.
Today, May 15, 2008 a federal grand jury indicted Lori Drew for her role in Megan Meier's suicide. According to the Associated Press, "Lori Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization for her part in an alleged bid to get information that was used to inflict emotional distress on Megan Meier".

According to MTV News, "Earlier this year, one of Drew's employees, 19-year-old Ashley Grills, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she created the fake profile but that Drew wrote some of the messages to Megan. Grills says she wrote the final message about the world being a better place without Meier, intending to end the online relationship because Grills thought the hoax had gone too far".

Tina (Christina) Meier's said in a local newspaper that she did not think that anyone involved in this cyber crime meant for her daughter to commit suicide but she finds it "vile" that an adult would be involved in something like this.

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