Daily Commentary – Friday, May 15th, 2009 – Is Cyberbullying is Free Speech? The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act

  • Do free speech rights protect “cyberbullying?”

icon for podpress  Daily Commentary – Friday, May 15th, 2009 – What is Free Speech? [1:23m]:  | Download

Make no mistake about it, there is a need to crack down on cyberbullying; however, let’s just make sure we go about it in the right manner and dot our “i’s” and cross our “t’s.” Hate is not free speech; however, a differing opinion is not hate.
Is the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act  a “Censorship Act”? The bill introduced by CA Rep. Linda Sanchez is designed to prevent cyberbullying and making it punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison.


Megan Meier

The question at hand is free speech vs. censorship. Is harassment and making threats on the internet or over other electronic devices cyberbullying? One would say that as always it depends on the intent. Cyberbullying should never be allowed as seen in the case of 13 year old Megan Meier who ultimately committed suicide after being cyberbullied by Josh Evans, who was in reality 49 year old Lori Drew.
Lori Drew is accused of setting up a false account on MySpace under the name of Josh Evans to knowingly and willfully harass 13 year old Megan Meier. The result of Drew’s alleged actions was that Megan Meier hung herself in her room after receiving such messages like “the world would be a better place without her”. Actually, the world would be a better place without people who would commit such senseless acts against children.
Lori Drew was eventually indicted for her role in the on-line hoax and suicide of Megan Meier; however, it became obvious that the laws had not caught up to the technology. The issue with what happened in the trail that followed is it became obvious that justice was not served.
However, I can understand to a point the “free speech” argument as with the case of most laws made, people will pervert them from what their initial intension was meant to be. The Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act is supposed to do one thing … protect people from sick, twisted cowards who hide behind the the cloak of the intenet to make threats against people. That’s rather straight forward as many have either received threats posted on the internet or in email. The intent of these practices by such “keyboard cowards” is to intimidate.

How will a cyberbulling law be perverted by the misguided and hateful?  One must be very careful how to define new, ground breaking law so not to call into the law of unintended consequences. The problem with some with the law is the wording, which is vague at best.
Even Sanchez’s attempt to define the term “cyberbullying” poses problems, said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.
“The bill defines it as ‘using electronic means to support severe, repeated and hostile behavior,’ but what does ‘severe, hostile and repeated behavior’ mean?” he asked.
“I’ve written articles opposing the bill that have appeared online. That’s electronic and — because I’ve written a few of them — repeated. I was also severe and hostile in my criticisms. Under her law, I can now go to jail.”
So how could a law which has the best of intentions to protect people from “cyber-cowards” so that nothing ever happens like what took place with Megan Meier possibly be a bad thing? When foolish people use such an act against someone who thinks that a differing opinion on any issue, especially political, is deemed “severe, repeated and hostile behavior”. Can meaness be legislated? I have long said that the government cannot legislate ignorance, yet they try all the time.
And so could many political commentators and Web bloggers who earn their keep by being confrontational and inflammatory. A TV host like MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, who’s been openly and repeatedly hostile to former Vice President Dick Cheney on his Web site, would not be safe from prosecution, the analysts say.
Even advocates of child safety on the Internet say the bill is impractical, at best.
I would ask one important question with regards to this cyberbullying act. The point of such legislation was to protect minors on the internet like 13 year old Megan Meier. No where in the entire piece of legislation is the word “minor” used.
Please Congress … read the bill, do your homework and get this one right for the children!

If you liked this post, you may also like these:

  • Megan Meier : Priceless … Defense Attorney for Lori Drew Say Prosecutors are Real Bullies
  • Justice Interrupted: Lori Drew MySpace Hoax that Caused Megan Meier’s Suicide Tentatively Thrown Out by Judge
  • MySpace Mom Lori Drew (Josh Evans) Indicted For Role in online Hoax of Suicide Death of 13 Year Old Megan Meier
  • Grand Jury Reviews Case of Lori Drew and Internet Suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier
  • Lori Drew (aka Josh Evans) Pleads Not Guilty to MySpace Hoax Charges in Death of Megan Meier

  • Comments

    13 Responses to “Daily Commentary – Friday, May 15th, 2009 – Is Cyberbullying is Free Speech? The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act”

    1. ANewGirl on May 15th, 2009 7:37 am

      The reason this story is so sad is simple…because it DIDN’T have to happen.

      While many contend that Lori Drew is being unfairly portrayed in the MSM, and fear that her sentencing will be harsh—I contend that Drew should be used and made to serve as a prime example of how using the Internet & “cyber bullying” should not be tolerated in our society. This is especially if these acts can be directly related & undeniably held responsible for the loss of life brought upon an innocent individual.

      Granted, Megan Meier had suffered from depression and low self-esteem issues to begin with—-however, does this make AN ADULT any less guilty of plotting for her demise or praying on this teenager’s vulnerability over some trivial issue involving the dislike of Drew’s own Daughter? My mind just screams this so soooooooo wrong of Lori Drew to have even gotten involved.

      Not only do I wish Drew is appropriately sentenced for her involvment and perpetration of this aggressive, abusive act —I also wish that Drew has the rest of her life upon which to reflect what she has truly done and the pain it has brought to Meirer’s family. Ashamed and humiliated? You bet. It really goes beyond that and all for what??? Some ridiculous competition in School? May sound bitter here but
      also hope Drew’s Husband leaves her (if he hasn’t already) and that she spends many years contemplating this huge error in judgement she made.

      RIP Megan Meirer…you deserved so much better. We also wish for continued strength for Megan’s Parents during this difficult trail and pray at it’s conclusion they can somehow find some closure so that their teenaged Daughter did not die in vein. (sp)?

    2. buster on May 15th, 2009 8:33 am

      I think what really pisses me off is that lori drew is not even sorry for what she did !!! lori thinks she is the victim right now and probably feels no remorse.
      Just look at Megan Meier picture she is so beautiful and looks so happy, Such a sad ending for such a beautiful person.
      God bless Megan and as for lori I hope urin vandercrap and lori spend eternity in hell !!!

    3. Michelle Smith on May 15th, 2009 10:52 am

      @ ANewGirl I agree.

      What is also sad is that a 49 year old mother felt the need to get online pretending to be someone else so she could bully this girl. Does harassing a 13 yo make you feel good about yourself? PAHLEASE Nice role model MOM Way to be a grown up MOM. It’s no wonder kids have no very little morals or empathy with role models like this.

      To bully someone who obviously had emotional issues is really cruel and unnecessary.

      And no, I don’t think freedom of speech entitles you to bullying or hate crimes.

    4. St Stephen on May 15th, 2009 12:07 pm

      Lori Drew 49 – Megan Meier – 13?

      regardless of the intent of “dumping” her at the end, it sure sounds like the old dame was actually enticing Megan by pretending to be a teen boy.

      That indeed sounds like what a pedophile would do and I am just wondering to what extent, if any, was she titillated by her online chats with her.

      A 49 year old person has no legitimate reason to talk to a 13 year old in any type of quasi-romantic relationship, real or imagined, whatsoever and it makes me suspicious of her prurient interests, should she have any.

    5. Mike on May 15th, 2009 1:29 pm


      Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that Drew did know about Megan’s depression and still did this hoax.

    6. yoyo muffintop on May 15th, 2009 2:35 pm

      “Is the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act a “Censorship Act”?”
      Answer: Yes it is.

      This law, if enacted, would clearly be facially overbroad (and probably unconstitutionally vague). It would be struck down on its face under the First Amendment.

      This overly-broad/poorly-crafted piece of legislation hopefully will never get beyond committee. Hopefully.

    7. bob on May 15th, 2009 3:31 pm

      The powers-that-be (Linda Sanchez) don’t care in the slightest if some girl hung herself. Their interest lies in siezing an opportunity to push through legislation to negate out freedom of speech. Soon we will be jailed for just saying the wrong thing–which is the situation in Canada today.

    8. Michelle Smith on May 15th, 2009 3:46 pm

      #6 So you agree with cyberbullying huh? It figures. Why on earth would a 49 yo woman be bullying a 13 yo girl? Just because it was done online doesn’t make it any different than bullying someone in person, it still sucks and should not be tolerated.

    9. yoyo muffintop on May 15th, 2009 10:45 pm

      #8 – You kidding right? This it’s not about cyber bullying. Take time to read the bill. And of course I’m not for cyber bullying…who is?

      Here’s a couple of very possible scenarios if this law is enacted:
      - Several people use blogs or Web-based newspaper articles to organize a boycott of a company, hoping to get it to change some policy they disapprove of. They’re transmitting communications with the intent to coerce, using electronic means “to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior.” Result: Those people are a felon. (Isn’t threatening a company with possible massive losses “severe”? who knows)
      - A politician votes the wrong way. I think that’s an evil, tyrannical vote so I repeatedly and harshly condemn the politician on my blog, hoping that he’ll get very upset. I’m transmitting a communication with the the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means (a blog) “to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior.” (I might also be said to be intending to “harass” – who knows, given how vague the term is – but the result is the same even if we set that aside.) Result: I am a felon, subject to the uncertainty about what “severe” means.

      This is poorly drafted and would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment imo.

    10. bob on May 16th, 2009 4:26 pm

      These new laws are deliberately vague so that they can be applied to any changing circumstance. The vague law will be open to any biased interpretation. This is similar to “anti-terrorist” laws. The question becomes: Who is a terrorist? And the answer is : Anyone who opposes the agenda of the powers-that-be. We are already now seeing that US patriots are considered the greatest “terrorist” threat. And the laws passed by liberals are in place now to jail the patriot. That’s the real reason they called it the Patriot Act.

    11. Michelle Smith on May 16th, 2009 5:39 pm

      #9 Okay, I see what your saying. I was only referring to cracking down on cyber bullying and threats.

    12. ANewGirl on May 16th, 2009 11:39 pm

      #5- Mike—- I believe, as the story was told- that, yes, Drew was well aware of Megan’s delicate state of mind BEFORE she cooked up her plan. So, this makes her cruelty even more appalling.

      As another blogger pointed out–the fact that Drew is now whining that she is being held accountable/scapegoat for other incidences of this nature….WHO CARES LORI DREW? You made a CONSCIOUS choice in cahoots with your own damn daughter to harrass and bully another MINOR, using the internet as your tool. Shame on you!

    13. Justen on May 17th, 2009 6:32 am

      It is unfortunate that a person should take advantage of the unstable emotional state of a young girl and, perhaps, drive her over the edge to suicide. Broad, sweeping legislation is not the answer, unfortunately. The answer is for parents, teachers, and communities to learn to recognize severe depression and suicidal tendencies, to offer support, to help seek treatment, and to remove them from environments in which they are being victimized.

      Please try to keep in mind that law enforcement officers and criminal investigators, especially the handful who are trained to deal with cyber security, have very limited resources. We don’t have the funds or the manpower to deal with very serious problems, from major large-scale data theft to infrastructure attacks. Our law enforcement officers are struggling to find the time and money they need to get out on the streets and intervene in or at least capture the perpetrators of serious violent crimes.

      We also have to be careful about the powers we give to the government. We are currently seeing the road these “we must protect the children” style movements lead to in Britain, where over the course of ten years programs are evolving to legislate the public and private behavior of individuals in extreme ways (see the article at http://www.reason.com/news/show/133423.html). In another case there is a program to select children and train them to monitor their family members in order to discourage and report “anti-social behavior” (see http://www.respect.gov.uk/news/article.aspx?id=10310). This has happened practically overnight, starting with the extremely dangerous argument that “not all speech is free speech”. Modern Russia provides an even more extreme example.

      States are not good stewards of “exceptions” to fundamental rights. We must be very, very careful about what slippery slopes we let them tread, even if occasionally something terrible happens that they claim they could have prevented. Unfortunately when we elect to curtail the rights of people we find distasteful or even abhorrent we also curtail our own rights; we must always have the courage to seek solutions that do not violate intrinsic rights, even if they aren’t the most obvious or the easiest.

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