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MySpace: Lori Drew off the hook on conspiracy, convicted for computer fraud November 27, 2008

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New York Times, 27 November 2008

A federal jury here issued what legal experts said was the country’s first cyberbullying verdict Wednesday, convicting a Missouri woman of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud for her involvement in creating a phony account on MySpace to trick a teenager, who later committed suicide.

The jury deadlocked on a fourth count of conspiracy against the woman, Lori Drew, 49, and the judge, George H. Wu of Federal District Court, declared a mistrial on that charge. (more)

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Verdict in MySpace Suicide Case November 27, 2008

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BBC, 27 November 2008

An American woman, accused of driving a teenage girl to suicide by bullying her on MySpace, has been cleared of one of the most serious charges against her.

Lori Drew, 49, was found not guilty of accessing a computer without authorisation to inflict emotional distress.

The jury failed to reach a verdict on another conspiracy charge.

She was convicted on three minor counts of violating the website’s terms and conditions.

Drew, from Missouri, was accused of posing as a boy on MySpace to befriend 13-year-old Megan Meier, who hanged herself after their virtual relationship ended.

The court in Los Angeles heard that Lori Drew was aware Megan suffered from depression and was emotionally fragile.

Drew was charged with violating MySpace’s terms of use, which ban users from assuming false identities and harassing other members.

The case is the first in the US relating to cyber-bullying.

Lori Drew could receive up to three years in prison when she is sentenced.

She would have faced a maximum 20 years if convicted of the more serious felony charges.

In MySpace Suicide Case, Judge May Exclude Suicide from Trial November 11, 2008

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Wall Street Journal – Law Blog, 11 Nov 2008

n the case we’ve come to call the ‘MySpace suicide’ case, how important is the ’suicide’ part? It appears that U.S. District Judge George Wu believes it’s not critical, and is leaning toward excluding the evidence of how 13 year-old Megan Meier hanged herself.

“I don’t necessarily think the suicide is relevant to the crime charged,” Wu said, according to the AP, adding he thought details of Meier’s death would unfairly prejudice the jury. He said he planned to announce his final decision Friday. The trial is set to kick off next Tuesday.

(For past LB coverage of the case, click here.)

Exclusion of the suicide would, of course, be a setback to the government. It would also highlight the divergence between the facts and the law. As Dean Steward, the lawyer for defendant Lori Drew, told us last week, the trial will be in two parts: the legal side, such as what the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act means and whether it can be triggered by violating the MySpace terms of service; and the factual side, the tragic death of a 13 year-old girl and the question of who caused it.

In what strikes us as another interesting twist to the upcoming trial, Steward attempted to waive Drew’s right to a jury trial, but prosecutors refused to assent to the waiver, resulting automatically, according to the AP report, in a jury trial. The prosecutors’ refusal to accept the jury waiver likely came as a surprise to Steward. Last week, he told the Law Blog he suspected the prosecutors would not oppose the jury waiver for fear of offending Judge Wu.

Megan Meier: Supporters gather on what would have been girl’s 16th birthday November 8, 2008

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Suburban Journals, 8 Nov 2008

About 50 people gathered Thursday evening to remember Megan Meier, who would have been 16 Thursday.

She most certainly, according to her mother, would have wasted no time in trying to obtain her driver’s license.

“She had talked about getting a car from probably the time she was 12 years old,” said Tina Meier, Megan’s mother. “So today is a hard day. But every day has been hard without her.”

The gathering was at a Dardenne Prairie baseball field on Hanley Road. A photo slide show of Megan’s life played across a sheet fixed to the back of the backstop.

There she was: a toddler with her new baby sister, Allison; a little girl before the Christmas tree; a basketball player at the Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles; and an eighth-grade volleyball player at Immaculate Conception Elementary School.

At times, her image on the sheet seemed to come alive, rolling with the wind.

Megan was 13 when she took her life in October 2006, the victim of a MySpace hoax involving an adult neighbor, Lori Drew, a family friend who had lived four doors away in Dardenne Prairie.

Drew, 49, is scheduled to go to trial for her role in the incident in Los Angeles Nov. 18.

“There are people who are not like Megan – who would not take their own life,” said Tina, 38. “Some people can walk away from it. But there are many who can’t.”

Cassie Thomas, 16, of St. Peters, recalled her friendship with Megan. She last saw Megan two months before her death. They saw a movie together.

“She just meant so much to me,” Cassie said. “She was a lot like me.”

“I was a good friend of hers,” said Brittany Osborn, 16, of O’Fallon. “I’m here to remember her and honor her. She was loving and easy to get along with.”

Those in attendance lit candles. Butch Moore, a family friend, sang “Who You’d Be Today,” written by Kenny Chesney. Some signed what Tina has called “The Megan Pledge,” which states, in part:

“I agree not to use technology as a weapon to hurt others.”

“I agree to think before I click.”

“I agree to think about the person on the other side.”

The goal is 1 million pledges. So far, Tina said, there are 425,000.

People said they came to remember Megan, or to support Tina, or the Meiers, or to support Vicki Dunn, of St. Peters, Tina’s aunt.

“We’re here in honor of Megan Meier and to help reduce cyberbullying – if we can in some small way – and to support the family,” said Jeff Brooks, 43, of Dardenne Prairie. His daughter is a friend of Allison Meier, 12.

Megan Meier Case: Lori Drew loses motion for a bench trial November 6, 2008

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St. Louis Today, 6 Nov 2008

Lori Drew, accused of cyber-bullying a teen who later committed suicide, tried but failed Wednesday to get a federal criminal case against her heard by a judge instead of a jury.

Her lawyer, H. Dean Steward, said she waived her right to a jury trial but that prosecutors, whose agreement is required, refused.

St. Louis area prosecutors had said they found no charge applicable to the circumstances. But the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles obtained an indictment in May that charged Drew, formerly of Dardenne Prairie, with unlawfully accessing MySpace computers in the process of harassing her daughter’s rival down the street.

Steward also is trying to keep any mention of the 2006 suicide of Megan Meier, 13, out of the trial, which is set for Nov. 18.

Lori Drew’s lawyers seek to toss cyber-bully case October 22, 2008

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TradingMarkets.com, 21 Oct 2008

Lawyers representing Lori Drew, the mother who is accused of using the social networking site MySpace to help cyber-bully a teen who then killed herself, filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out the indictment against her.

Prosecutors said Drew and others schemed in 2006 to humiliate Megan Meier, 13, a neighbor in Dardenne Prairie, using a fake teenage boy’s identity on MySpace.

Megan was first a friend, then a “rival” of Drew’s daughter, prosecutors have said.

Federal and state prosecutors in the St. Louis area said they found no charge to apply against Drew, but the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, where MySpace is based, obtained indictments accusing her of one count of conspiracy and three counts of illegally accessing protected computers.

Prosecutors say Drew violated MySpace’s terms of service, which prohibit lying when registering, soliciting information from someone under 18 and harassing other users.

In the motion filed Monday, her attorneys argue that the government must do more than simply allege that the terms of service were violated.

“The fatal flaw in the government’s case is that MySpace knew perfectly well at all time exactly what it was doing,” the motion says. “MySpace knew that it was providing an account to users who might or might not comply with the Terms of Service. Most users violate Terms of Service frequently, as MySpace is surely aware.”

Drew’s attorneys also argue that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which Drew is accused of violating, should not be used to punish “everything bad that happens on the Internet.” They also contend the indictment should be tossed because no theft was committed and the law Drew is being charged under requires a theft, as well as that recent legislation implies the law does not apply when the defendant and victim are in the same state.

It was not clear late Monday when a judge could rule on the motion.

MySpace hoaxer let friends know about plot against late teen September 24, 2008

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The Smoking Gun, 23 September 2008

The Missouri woman charged with orchestrating a cruel online hoax that led to the suicide of a teenage girl was once so pleased with her prank that she shared details of the ongoing scheme with her hairdresser and other acquaintances, according to prosecutors. During conversations with several individuals, Lori Drew explained how she and others were “playing a joke on” Megan Meier, a 13-year-girl who was a rival of Drew’s daughter. That joke involved Drew’s creation of a MySpace page for a “Josh Evans,” a nonexistent boy who took an online liking to Meier, but then abruptly turned on the girl, telling her on October 16, 2006 that the world would be a better place without her. A distraught Meier committed suicide later that day. In May, Drew was named in a four-count federal indictment charging her with conspiracy and computer fraud in connection with the MySpace scheme. In a court filing yesterday, prosecutors revealed how Drew spoke of the hoax as it was underway, and “denied any untoward purpose and dismissed concerns over her ‘prank.” An excerpt of the September 22 document can be found below. While Drew appeared proud of her MySpace gambit while it was active, after Meier’s suicide she sought to cover her tracks and mask her involvement in the plot. When questioned by FBI agents, Drew said that while she knew of the MySpace hoax, she was not involved in the creation of the phony “Josh Evans” account. Additionally, when agents surreptitiously recorded a conversation between Drew and Meier’s mother, Drew “again disclaimed involvement in the scheme.” Drew, pictured above, is scheduled for trial next month in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Soulja goes to war over MySpace hack attack September 3, 2008

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Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September 2008

US rapper Soulja Boy has been targeted by cyber vandals who defaced his MySpace profile and published his email and YouTube passwords on the internet.

The hackers, reportedly part of the popular online community 4chan, contacted Soulja Boy demanding he hand over $US2500 in order to regain control over his account.

The rapper, who published tracks on the internet before becoming a mainstream star in September last year with the number one hit Crank That (Soulja Boy), refused.

His MySpace page was then wiped out and replaced with obscenity-laden messages where Soulja Boy purportedly declared his homosexuality and told fans to “go f— yourselves”.

The miscreants also published the rapper’s passwords – including to his email, souljaboytellem@mac.com – on the internet, and flooded his website’s online chatroom.

The saga ended when Soulja Boy’s record label, Interscope, contacted MySpace and demanded the account be returned.

His YouTube and email accounts have also been returned, Soulja Boy said in a recent YouTube video.

“Niggas sent me a message on MySpace saying I got your shit, send me $2500 if you want it back,” he says in the video.

“I texted back saying f— you, bitch, do what you do, the mother f—er got to be f—ed up. And then after that he deleted all my shit and I was like well darn the nigga wasn’t bluffin.”

Soulja Boy says in the video that he was going to offer a $US10,000 reward to anyone who revealed the hacker’s identity but this was unnecessary as he had already caught them.

“On the next video y’all stay tuned to see what we did with this hacker – we gotta make an example out of this shit.”

The video was published last week and since then Soulja Boy has published a number of other clips on YouTube, none of which mention the hacking saga.

The hack appears to be unrelated to a recent online feud with gangsta rap veteran Ice-T, who labelled Soulja Boy’s music garbage that was killing hip-hop. The comments started a war on YouTube and Souljah Boy responded with a cartoon that mocked Ice-T and his dancing.

Celebrities’ MySpace pages are regular targets for hackers looking to increase their notoriety or expose private photos and messages.

In 2007, a person wanting to impress a hacker group broke into the MySpace profiles of Justin Timberlake, Hilary Duff and MTV personality Tila Tequila. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus Alicia Keys and Nas have also had their profiles compromised in the past.

Megan Meier: Attorney asks for medical records of dead girl August 21, 2008

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St. Louis Post – Dispatch, 20 August 2008

A lawyer for the woman accused of using the Internet to bully a Dardenne Prairie teen to the point of suicide has requested some of the girl’s medical records, claiming the girl was mentally ill and suggesting a change in her medication could have caused her death. (more of this disgusting story)

MySpace suicide: Accused Lori Drew’s lawyer files documents challenging law July 23, 2008

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KTRS 550, 23 July 2008

Lori Drew’s attorney says the law being used to prosecute his client is flawed. H. Dean Steward represents Drew who is accused of using a fake identity on myspace to harass Megan Meier who later committed suicide. He filed 3 documents in Los Angeles federal court calling the law constitutionally vague and criminalizes something done by millions on-line daily. Steward also says prosecutors went too far to charge Drew with anything they could find.

More at St. Louis Post Dispatch

Florida Criminal Case: Efforts to rein in online fight videos July 23, 2008

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Christian Science Monitor, 22 July 2008

Pressure builds on social-networking websites to do more to block such content. Legislation is afoot, too.

The images played out in shocking detail this spring: a group of Florida teens beating a girl and videotaping it to allegedly post online at YouTube and MySpace. Some of them face felony charges and the possibility of life in prison. (more)

Atheists’ MySpace page restored after hacking incident February 8, 2008

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Secure Computing, 7 Feb 2008

The “Atheist and Agnostic Group” MySpace page has been reactivated, a month after the page was deleted following a November 2007 hacking incident where unauthorised users renamed it “Jesus is Love.”

The incident is the second reported high profile cyberattack in recent months on a religion-oriented webpage. Last month, the Church of Scientology’s website experienced disruptions after it was threatened by a hacker group.

Bryan Pesta, a Cleveland State University assistant professor and the atheist group’s founder, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week that his 35,000-member webpage had been shut down twice by the social networking site since its 2004 founding.

More than 830 MySpace members have signed an online petition calling for the page to be reestablished and protected by the networking site, which is owned by international media conglomerate News Corp.

A MySpace spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that the site was accidentally deleted in January, but restored this month following its November 2007 defacement by a hacker.

The restored page on Wednesday carried a statement thanking MySpace for reinstating the group.

The page also linked to a petition seeking an agreement “with MySpace to ensure that groups attacked by hackers, phishers, spammers and pinheads can be fixed quickly and effectively.”

Pesta could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last month, a hacker group calling itself “Anonymous” said in a video posted on YouTube that it would “systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form.” The church’s official website could not be accessed at various times in the days following the threat.

Jose Nazario, senior security and software engineer at Arbor Networks, said last month on his blog that researchers had detected nearly 500 DDoS attacks against the church, with an average size of 15,000 packets per second.

The incident followed the church’s copyright infringement claims following the spread of edited clips from a 2004 promotional video featuring actor Tom Cruise.

Anonymous also claimed that the church filtered anti-Scientology comments posted on YouTube, Digg.com and other websites.

Ken Pappas, security strategist at Top Layer Networks, an intrusion-prevention provider, told SCMagazineUS.com at the time that cyberattackers were likely using botnets to attack the church.