December 5, 2021

Are We All Dangerous Hackers?

By now I’m sure that everybody is familiar with the story of Megan Meier – the girl who committed suicide after getting bullying notes from a parent posing as a teenager on MySpace.

If you watched the Today Show today, they had the girl’s mother on the show talking about how a 20 year prison sentence wouldn’t be enough for Lori Drew – the mother who posed as a teen on MySpace and started a friendship with Megan only to end it badly.

Now, I understand your daughter killed herself. It’s very sad and unfortunate and it doesn’t deserve to happen to anybody. I also understand the grief and sadness and confusion and anger you’re going through – but everybody needs to separate these feelings from their actions. Justice is about the law – not revenge.

I say that because Lori Drew didn’t actually break any laws. It’s not illegal to tell somebody how you feel. In this case, Lori said “the world would be a lot better place without you.” That’s not a crime, that’s an opinion. It’s a terribly wrong and misguided opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. Ms. Drew shouldn’t be thinking like this, but her thoughts are not a crime – even if she expresses them. We’re not living in 1984 yet.

I hate to bring it up, but there was obviously something not stable going on with Megan if a MySpace comment can cause her to commit suicide. Somebody should have noticed the signs earlier and gotten her some help.

So why am I going off on this? Because of the charges they flied on Ms Drew. After local police couldn’t find anything to charge her with, the Feds stepped in and charged her with conspiracy and felony hacking. Yes, that’s right, hacking. They’re claiming that since she lied about her age to MySpace she “hacked” them.

There’s a big problem with that interpretation. It means anybody who provides a fake email, fake name, or fake phone number to any website is also a felony hacker. Just think how many times a day you refuse to give your information out. It can be downloading something that wants your email address, or your cell phone number on a checkout page. If this interpretation holds up it means that over 90% of internet users can be charged with felonies. That’s a serious problem.

Now, I’m not saying they’d go around charging people for not giving a proper email address, but what’s to stop them from using it against somebody when they can’t make other charges stick; like in the Drew case?

Don’t get me wrong. Megan’s death is a sad tragedy that could have been prevented if somebody had noticed her warning signs. Ms. Drew’s actions were horrible, immature, and pathetic – but not illegal. She deserves tons of guilt, shame, and ridicule. She should probably go get some mental help too based on what I’ve read, but she doesn’t deserve to be behind bars.

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com