Loose Identities on MySpace Compared to Handing Predators 'Loaded Guns'


Here's another cautionary tale for the MySpace scandal scrapbook. Last year, a girl named Megan Meier met a boy on the social network, fell in love, then killed herself after he told her the world would be better without her.

A year later, Megan's parents have come forward to say a couple months after their daughter's death they discovered the boy was the invention of some neighbors they know -- not other kids, mind you, but other adults, trying to find out whether Megan herself spreads rumors about their own spawn.

The incident naturally sparked talk about whether MySpace and the 'net in general should endure more regulation.

During his interview with Alberto Padilla at ad:tech Miami, MySpace CMO Shawn Gold addressed the topic of MySpace predators by saying parents should educate kids about what kind of threats are out there -- not just on the internet, but in the world.

We agree with Shawn in principle. The iffy question of internet regulation has floated around since the days of AOL chat rooms, and over the long-term, the idea seems to yield more disadvantages than advantages.

But you always feel a little differently when the situation comes close to home. What would you say if Megan was your daughter or a kid you knew?

by Angela Natividad    Nov-20-07   Click to Comment   
Topic: Bad, Online, Policy   

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I believe this is called Darwinism in action.

Posted by: Bob on November 20, 2007 1:01 PM

I believe this is called Darwinism in action.

Posted by: Bob on November 20, 2007 1:12 PM

Heavens, Bob.

Posted by: Angela on November 20, 2007 1:19 PM

I've considered this from the aspect of being a parent.

I've considered this from the aspect of psycho adults pretending to be other than who they are online.

Oddly, under extreme instances, I can see myself creating a fake online profile if it were the only thing I could do to protect my daughter. Parents go to extreme measures for their children. Of course, what they do isn't always the right thing. And certainly if these parents posing as Josh did threaten Megan then that's just a despicable thing. Creating a fake profile to hang in the background to see what's up in your kids online world is one thing. To actively interact and threaten is quite another.

And, these parents who posed as Josh are apparently showing no signs of remorse or contrition if that's the word. The least they could do is act (or better, be) horrified at the fact what they did may have caused the death of Megan. Of course, it seems Megan had plenty of problems of her own and blaming her death on some mean things said online might be going too far as well. This is a very gray area legally. There are no laws to specifically cover it.

I couldnít, as the parents of Megan, imagine living in the same neighborhood as the people who posed to her as Josh. I'm really not quite sure what I'd do in their shoes. The Drews didn't put the noose around the girlís neck but they certainly contributed to her death in my opinion. It's odd they won't come forward with their side of the story. Who knows, maybe Megan was stalking the the Drews' kid or something like that. We may never know what really happened.

Online staking has been going on since the early days of Prodigy, AOL and even earlier. With MySpace and Facebook, it's just more prevalent and every kid is online.

Perhaps the solution will just be a generational thing. Just as most people over 40 are clueless about the internet, in 20-30 years when we look back on today, we'll realize today's teens where totally clueless about managing their online personas and dealing with the dangers that come with living in a virtual world. It's like the Wild West now in some ways. No doubt, rightly or wrongly, there will be all kinds of laws passed to deal with this stuff in the future but, for the most part, the issue will become yet another danger, the solution to which, we will integrate into our culture and our laws.

Certainly, I donít have all the answers. Certainly, here are several sides to the story and certainly there are several solutions to the problem. Itís terrible that Megan is gone but it is good for everyone that we continue to talk about it.

Posted by: Steve Hall on November 20, 2007 1:30 PM

I don't think we can attribute this one incident as the cause of this horrible tragedy. It may have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

It was definitely wrong of the other adults to pretend to be someone they weren't, but there were obviously many other factors at play here.

Parents definitely need to educate their kids about how to be safe online, but we can't blame technology and social networking sites when things go terribly wrong.

It reminds me of the individuals who blame music, as the source for all that's wrong with their kids and the reason that they act the way they do. It's just not that simple.

Posted by: Lee on November 20, 2007 10:36 PM

Years ago a child in our neighborhood (whom we knew very well and I had always liked a lot) started acting like a little shit to my kids and, worse, to some friends of ours, whom she didn't know nearly as well.

When her behavior crossed a line, the next time I had her in the car with me I discussed it with her. I asked her to apologize to the parties involved and let me know when she had, and to her credit she did.

Later I got a phone call from the girl's mother. The next time I had a problem with her kid, she asked, would I please discuss it with her and not the kid? At the time I hadn't realized I was wrong to handle the issue with the child directly until I got the call, but I was.

Would I pull a stranger's kid out of the street or a swimming pool, or enforce basic politeness in a kid I know? In a heartbeat. But when the issue is serious, the protocol is parent to parent.

These parents should have handled their issues with their child's friend with the parents. Not the child.

Never the child.

Not in the car.

Not on the phone.

Not online.

Parent to parent. Preferably in person, email if you're chicken.

Posted by: Mary Baum on November 25, 2007 6:34 PM

But the point is -- the technology they used made everything worse, but it wasn't the key issue. Breaking the parent-to-parent protocol was the issue.

Posted by: Mary Baum on November 25, 2007 6:45 PM

On Wednesday, October 21st, city officials wasted no time enacting an ordinance designed to address the public outcry for justice in the Megan Meier tragedy. The six member Board of Aldermen made Internet harassment a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail.

Does this new law provide any justice for Megan? Does this law provide equitable relief for a future victim?

The Vice rejects the premise of this new law and believes it completely misses the mark. Classifying this case as a harassment issue completely fails to address the most serious aspects of the methods Lori Drew employed to lead this youth to her demise. The Vice disagrees that harassment was even a factor in this case until just a couple of days before Megan's death.

Considering this case a harassment issue is incorrect because during the 5 weeks Lori Drew baited and groomed her victim, the attention was NOT unwanted attention. Megan participated in the conversations willingly because she was misled, lured, manipulated and exploited without her knowledge.

This law willfully sets a precedent that future child exploiters and predators might use to reclassify their cases as harassment cases. In effect, the law enacted to give Megan justice, may make her even more vulnerable. So long as the child victim doesn't tell the predator to stop, even a harassment charge may not stick with the right circumstances and a good defender.

Every aspect of this case follows the same procedural requirement used to convict a Child Predator. A child was manipulated by an adult. A child was engaged in sexually explicit conversation (as acknowledged by Lori Drew herself). An adult imposed her will on a child by misleading her, using a profile designed to sexually or intimately attract the 13 year old Megan.

Lori then utilized the power she had gained over this child to cause significant distress and endangerment to that child. She even stipulated to many of these activities in the police report she filed shortly after Megan's death.

City officials who continue to ignore this viable, documented admission and continue to address this issue as harassment are intentionally burying their heads in the sand, when the solution is staring them right in the face. Why?

There are several other child exploitation laws on the books. To date, none of them have even been considered by City, State and Federal officials in this case. The Vice is outraged that a motion was never even filed, so that the case could at least be argued before a judge or jury.

Danny Vice

Posted by: Danny Vice on December 2, 2007 5:29 PM

While the Megan Meier case seems outrageous and unique, it isnít unique. Hundreds of cases of egregious and heinous acts go on every day with the same excuses out of our lawmakers.

One such other case....The case of Nikki Catsouras, is a classic example of disgusting, hateful activity against innocent victims, while our lawmakers excuse themselves from enacting laws to prevent this.

The excuse lawmakers use to let themselves off the hook stem from the growth of the Internet and how fast it's changing. This is a sham.

Chat rooms, message boards, instant messengers and email have been in existence for far over a decade now. While the software used to transmit messages changes slightly, the basic essence of using the Internet to send a message is largely the same. Is a decade or two long enough to establish some basic decency laws in regards to Internet usage?

Iíve posted the Nikki Catsouras story along with many details about the Megan Meier case so the inactivity out of our lawmakers towards these types of cases can be clearly seen.

Those who are interested in learning about cases like Meganís and Nikkiís case are encouraged to drop by and comment on them if you like. I have a couple of polls set up as well. Danny Vice would like to hear your point of view.

Public awareness of the problem and discussions about possible solutions are the best way to pressure elected officials into action instead of excuse making.

I invite you to come by and share your opinion.

Danny Vice

Posted by: Danny Vice on December 9, 2007 11:30 PM