Thursday, December 6

Confusing Authorities: Masked Citizens

As the old saying goes, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and maybe doubly so online. Two anonymous identity stories have played out very differently in recent weeks; they are dramatically lopsided and in the wrong direction.

Lori Drew Escapes Responsibility And Meier Harassment Continues

Authorities struggled with charging Lori Drew for anonymously harassing 13-year-old Megan Meier to the point of suicide. Enough so that Megan’s mother Tina Meier urged a group of north St. Louis County lawmakers and city officials to push for Internet harassment laws.

"Nothing you can do," Tina Meier told the St. Louis Post. "Nothing on the books. It doesn't fit in the box. Too bad, so sad. They get to walk free."

For all her loss and effort, Dardenne Prairie (Missouri) has since passed a law making online harassment a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. These charges do not apply to Drew.

And yet, the Meier family continues to be harassed. Someone claiming to be Drew has set up a new blog called Megan Had It Coming, which seems authentic enough that some are speculating it might be real.

James Buss Gets Locked Up For Criticizing Spending

James Buss, a high school chemistry teacher in Milwaukee, left an anonymous comment on Boots and Sabers and was promptly arrested after authorities insisted the blogger give up the anonymous poster’s e-mail address. Buss was arrested.

The comment was reprehensible, praising the Columbine High School killers and saying they “knew how to deal with overpaid teacher union thugs.”

According to the Associated Press this morning, Buss won’t face charges because it was unclear whether the comment advocated violence against teachers, and even if it did, its language was not likely to incite others to act.

However, one wonders how authorities in one part of the country can take swift action on an apparent inappropriate comment and yet authorities in another take virtually no action after the death of a 13-year-old girl who was maliciously plotted against. And, no action has been taken as the Meier family continues to be harassed.

Digg!

7 comments:

maybei on 12/6/07, 10:30 AM said...

It is amazing how folks can get away with harassment online these days. We need laws to protect the innocent and also - we need the authorities to take online harassment seriously.

My heart goes out the girl's family!! What happened to her and them is just wrong.

Thanks Rich for another important read!

Rich on 12/6/07, 11:30 AM said...

Hi Maybei,

I am almost sorry to say you may be right. Even if it were possible to craft a suitable law, one that accurately addresses the abuse of anonymity without infringing on civil liberties, we still need to educate law enforcement.

While reprehensible, Buss needed not be arrested for his comment. In contrast, authorities in Missouri might even consider testing their new law if Drew is publishing the Megan Had It Coming blog. One would think she would appreciate that she caused enough damage.

Equally amazing to me are the number of comments on the Megan Had It Coming blog that defend Drew.

If Drew wanted to teach a 13-year a lesson, the remedy might have been to call Megan's parents. An adult plotting for weeks or perhaps months on undermining a 13-year-old girl is beyond me.

All my best,
Rich

Rich on 12/6/07, 3:45 PM said...

More words:

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts slices through the case to provide an interesting perspective on the Drew-Meier story, including why the St. Louis Post-Dispatch felt bloggers were unfair to Drew.

kystorms on 12/7/07, 7:40 AM said...

Dear Rich

after having been inside something like this, I have to say that I am scared for all of us. Not for the violent manner we find ourselves involved in, but for the violence it promotes in ourselves as a reaction.
I find myself this morning thinking this over, and have come to see that for every action of violence I see or hear about, I will react as best I can with love and kindness. I hope we can all do so, our I fear we will lose our humanity.
I am betting that my comment seems Polly Anna-ish, but this is where I sit today.
I will vow here and now, to react with kindness to each person who comes toward my life in anger, and I too send my thoughts and prayers to that girls family, and to those who did this. They too need help, and prayers.

Rich on 12/7/07, 10:11 AM said...

Lisa,

Whether some people perceive that your thoughts are Polly Anna-ish, is less important than how you perceive them. There is truth to the idea that a little love goes a long way.

Thank you for sharing your kindness. It's always refreshing. Sometimes it's all too easy to forget that for every key stroke someone is touched, good, bad, or indifferent. It's nice to read that you are always working to touch people in the best of ways.

All my best,
Rich

Jericho Saved on 12/7/07, 11:36 AM said...

Thanks Rich. May I say that I have recently had the good fortune of speaking by phone to some of my online friends? I feel it's important that we reached out in this way to each other.

May I also say that your post reminds me "there but for the Grace of God go I." I say that to myself every day.I also add my thoughts and prayers to the families.

Rich on 12/7/07, 4:33 PM said...

A wonderful addition Jane. It's also good to hear you are able to touch so many of the friends you made online. It makes a difference, I think.

All my best,
Rich

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