MySpace Suicide Leads to Missouri Cyberbully Laws

Cyberbullying is one of those semi-intangible acts that plays into the mysterious anonymity of the web, but that hasn’t stopped legislatures from trying to curb this very harming behavior. After a high profile suicide case in 2006, which was a result of cyberbullying that had occurred on MySpace, the state of Missouri has been trying to get more laws in place to better prosecute cyberbullying.

Ars Technica reports that a handful of changes made to the state’s harassment laws includes cyberbullying, which is something other forms of legislature across the world may begin to layer into their own existing harassment laws.

The case that encouraged Missouri to include cyberbullying in its harassment laws involved a young girl that committed suicide after receiving several threatening and manipulative messages via MySpace.

Megan Meier believed that these messages were coming from a teenage boy that she liked and flirted with, but the situation took a turn for the worse when the boy started accusing Megan of being mean to her friends and acting in a sexually indecent manner. Meier told her mother about the messages and the two got into a fight, with the young girl eventually committing suicide. Weeks later, it was discovered that the messages were in fact coming from a neighbor, who was also the mother of one of Meier’s former friends.

From looking at this case, it’s clear that there are several levels of illegal behavior to consider, from breaking MySpace’s own Terms of Service by using an account for harassment purposes to the actual harassment itself. And prosecution alone may not be the only thing a harasser will have to worry about if they participate in cyberbullying. Earlier this month a man was compensated for the personal damages caused by a cyberbully, setting a precedent in China for a legal battle of this nature.