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Cyberbullying, Website Terms of Use and the CFAA: the Lori Drew Case

Suffice it to say, very few people realize that violating the “terms of use”  (aka the small print that no one reads) on a web site may constitute violation of a federal law that has both criminal and civil penalties.  Yet, this was the basis for the prosecution of Lori Drew,  the woman who allegedly created a MySpace account under the name of “Josh Evans.”   Using this account, Drew developed an online relationship with Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl.  “Josh Evans” said hurtful things to Megan, who took her own life.

Pamela Jones lays out the legal issues in this case on Groklaw, here, where she links to many key documents, and embeds the EFF’s amicus brief, in its entirety.

I was trying to figure out how to explain to you all that is involved in the case of the U.S. v. Lori Drew, the cyberbullying case that so many lawyers are expressing concerns about. I felt I needed a lawyer to explain it, but where would I find one who felt like doing some unpaid work, and over the Thanksgiving holiday to boot?

Then I had a brainstorm. I could show you the amicus brief [PDF] submitted in the case by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Public Citizen, which was also signed by “14 individual faculty members listed in Appendix A who research, teach and write scholarly articles and books about internet law, cybercrime, criminal law and related topics at law schools nationwide”. Appendix A is at the very end. If you look at the list, you’ll see that it’s some of the finest and most knowledgeable lawyers and law professors specializing in cyberlaw. The brief was written by Jennifer Granick of EFF and Philip R. Malone of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s Cyberlaw Clinic.

I think when you read it, it will turn your hair white.  Continue reading ….