I wasn’t initially sure that this case would come to court, so this news comes as a bit of a surprise. I am sure I blogged about Megan Meier, the 13 year old who committed suicide because the mother of one of her school friends pretended to be a 16 year old boy on MySpace, who ultimately rejected the girl, who had been previously diagnosed with clinical depression. The alleged offending mother was allegedly aware of the diagnosis at the time that this incident occurred.
If this is true, and the offending mother did drive this child to suicide, then I believe she should be held liable for her actions in a court of law, but currently cyberbullying is not a crime and I am not entirely certain that it should be a crime. However, I do think that it is important that she be tried for violating MySpace’s EULA because it may be possible to give these EULA’s tangible teeth when they are violated. So if Microsoft finally says, “Hey, if we catch you cursing Xbox Live, we will prosecute you for violation of our EULA.” it will actually mean something to the end user.
It’s a crazy thought, I know. It is hard to want to hold this mother accountable for what happened on MySpace in 2006 because doing so will take away some of the anonymity and freedom of the internet. But this woman and the two teenage girls that she was responsible for took unfair advantage of that freedom.
Sooner or later, cybercrimes will have to be prosecuted. Spammers will have to be caught. Internet bullies will have to be dealt with. Child pornography rings will have to be torn down. I think this case is a small, but much needed first step toward helping our country define how it will handle these events and how our legal system is prepared to adapt to compensate for these issues.
This is an important case for any of us who use the internet. How far can you hold people to EULA’s and to what extent are they liable for their violations?
I hope that the answer is that this mom will at least be fined for the violation and that she will have to do some community service. She should pay back the community that she has harmed by allowing something like this to take place under her nose.