Monday, August 31, 2009

Acquitted "Cyber Bully" Lori Drew Finds Herself a Victim of Online Tormenters

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 12:23 PM

click to enlarge WWW.WIRED.COM
Technically this is old news-- the judge in the case said way back on July 2 that he had "tentatively" decided to overrule the LA jury's three guilty verdicts and acquit Drew on misdemeanor charges of violating MySpace's "Terms of Service" agreement. But, as of last Friday, the judge's ruling became official and the (mostly positive) long-term implications warrant a little discussion.

In the ruling, which you can read in full by clicking here, Judge George H. Wu wrote that convicting Drew would set a dangerous precedent and "convert a multitude of otherwise innocent Internet users into misdemeanant criminals." In other words, if you've ever skipped to the end of a lengthy, legalese-filled Terms of Use policy and just checked the box without reading, you can now thank Judge Wu for potentially saving you some hassle and a possible criminal conviction.

Several legal and online naval-gazers are celebrating the ruling. Perhaps the folks at Wired put it best when they wrote that the acquittal is "the only sensible disposition of a depressingly sad case." The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog said the decision protects an "unconstitutionally vague" reading of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Of course since Drew is perhaps the greatest villain of the Internet era-- one who was long ago tried, convicted, and punished on the Web's court of public opinion-- not everyone is taking the acquittal lying down. The most outraged group seems to be the typically level-headed commenters at the Post-Dispatch, who responded to the news by cyber-bullying the original cyber bully.
While there were a few rare voices of reason chiming in, here's a sample of the vitriolic comments on the P-D's Drew acquittal story:

click to enlarge Lori_Drew_Comment_1.jpg
click to enlarge Lori_Drew_Comment_2.jpg
The irony here is that technically these comments violate the P-D's own "Terms of Service" agreement since they "infringe on another user's right to use and enjoy [the] site."

On second thought, perhaps it's too bad judge Wu acquitted Lori Drew. His ruling now makes it that much harder for someone to do the local online community a huge favor and press charges against the idiots who pollute local news comment threads with hate speak.

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