Via Eugene Volokh, I see that United States District Judge George Wu has dismissed the case against Lori Drew, the loathsome woman who drove troubled 16-year-old Megan Meier to suicide through a wantonly cruel MySpace Prank.
As I wrote before, the government's case theory was disturbing: it asserted that Drew had committed a federal crime — computer fraud in violation of 18 USC 1030 — when she violated MySpace's Terms of Service by creating a false identity there. That apparently finally moved Judge Wu as well:
Wu said he was concerned that if Drew was found guilty of violating the terms of service in using MySpace, anyone who violated the terms could be convicted of a crime.
. . .
"Is a misdemeanor committed by the conduct which is done every single day by millions and millions of people?" Wu asked. "If these people do read [the terms of service] and still say they're 40 when they are 45, is that a misdemeanor?"
Exactly. If violating any TOS on any web site is a federal crime, then a vast swath of innocuous online behavior becomes criminal. Of course the government isn't going to prosecute everyone. Rather, the government is going to use the theory as a method of going after people they don't like — notorious or unpopular people whose conduct does not actually violate any legal provision related to their actual conduct.
Huge props to the defense team (including Orin Kerr). This is a rebuke of the cynical overreaching by the L.A. U.S. Attorney's Office.
Some vile conduct can't be criminalized in a free society. Hopefully Lori Drew will suffer a social penalty — being a despised pariah, shunned for the rest of her days.
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