When I started this blog, I clicked some box agreeing to Blogger's terms of service. I'm a lawyer. I know all about reading every word of the fine print. Sometimes I do. I'm pretty much certain I didn't in this case. (My recollection, admittedly vague, is that I stopped at the part about not using dirty words. Shit, maybe I should have kept reading.)
OK. If the evidence is to be believed (and I repeat that I'm a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer at that, and I'm rarely inclined to think the evidence is all that reliable), Lori Drew is a terrible person who cooked up a scheme to use MySpace.com deliberately and viciously to harass, humiliate, and scar for life her daughter's former friend, Megan Meier. She did the job so well that Megan's life ended with a suicide, Lori Drew's words over the internet apparently the proximate cause.
Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. A young girl dead for no good reason. Not even any apparent remorse from Ms. Drew. People (not least Megan's parents) wanted blood. But, it seems, no crime. (See this story from the NY Times a couple of years ago.)
Except that while the Missouri prosecutors couldn't find a criminal offense, the feds could. The then-47-year-old Drew, they charged in California, committed conspiracy to use a computer fraudulently to intentionally inflict emotional distress. That's a felony. They also charged three misdemeanor counts of computer fraud for using MySpace.com in violation of its terms of service. (You can read the indictment here, at The Smoking Gun.)
It was an original idea. The relevant laws had been used before this only to go after computer hackers and the like. But a girl was dead; the public was outraged; something had to be done. The jury said no to the felony. But they returned guilty verdicts on the three misdemeanors.
(Story here.) Thursday, the judge threw out the verdict. (Story here.)
If violation of terms of service is a crime, the judge said, then internet service providers and other private entities effectively get to decide what the law is. That can't be right.
Good for him. Maybe cyberbullying should be a crime. (I don't think so, but that's a different issue.) But it isn't now, and that wasn't really the charge, anyhow. So a gutsy decision to go against public sentiment and do the right thing.
Except, of course, he said he might change his mind before he writes it up. A tentative acquittal.
If he goes back on it, I'll read my terms of service. Fuck. (Ooops. Violated 'em again.)