Bullying is nothing new in contemporary society; the experience is shared among different people worldwide. Parents throughout generations have endeavored to help their children overcome this mayhem. Expansion on the use of internet and social websites in the current society has made bullying move to a different level from the usual schoolyard, playground and at the cafeteria. Cyberbullying occurs in various forms such as posting harassing messages in social media, emails and spread of embarrassing words in the social media. Parents often undergo a difficult time in finding a solution that will ensure their children are protected from cyberbullying. Unfortunately, the law is still lagging to curb the rapid technological developments regarding harassment and cyberbullying. Hence, cyberbullying is comprehensive reports on a legal void; insufficient laws constrain the habit of bad actors. The case of Megan Meier committing suicide after receiving messages from an alleged lover, which was part of a MySpace hoax is a terrible instance of cyberbullying. Therefore, this paper discusses United States v. Drew case including a summary of the case, the characteristics of the victim and the cybercriminal, and motivation of the situation.
Summary of United States V. Drew Case
A 50-year-old mother, Lori Drew created a fictitious Myspace.com profile to ascertain whether Megan Meier, a longtime friend to her daughter was spreading wrong information to other peers about her daughter. Drew, her daughter, and an employee proceeded to contact Megan with the fictitious name Josh Evans, which was carefully tailored to fit Megan and fostered a relationship with her that lasted for a month (Steinberg, n.d.). In 2008, Lori Drew was charged at the federal court in California of an alleged role she played on MySpace.com that resulted to Megan Meier, a thirteen-year-old neighbor of Drew committing suicide. She committed suicide over a "boy" she met on Myspace turned out and dismissed the relationship on the basis that he was moving away. The boy, in this case, was Lori Drew who pretended to be a sixteen-year-old and named himself Josh Evans to increase the trust of Megan, who had been fighting with Drew's daughter. The conspirators convinced Megan that the world would have been a better place with her absence, which prompted her to commit suicide.
Characteristics of the Cybercriminal and the Victim
Peer victimization and depression have a significant relationship among children and adolescents, and when bullied, they most likely respond by anger or sadness. Megan reacted by anger when bullied and resorted to hanging herself to stop the bullying. Drew's actions against Megan involved cyberbullying by an adult against a peer whom Drew knew had a long history of suffering from depression and attention deficit disorder. Megan underwent extreme emotional response, and that humiliated her feeling concerning her existence, a sense of identity and loss of self-worthwhileness that increased the force to commit suicide. Research conducted among secondary students showed that cyberbullying by their peers make them devastated and feel lonely and depressed coupled with the feeling of "I wish I were dead."
Drew was an Overprotective Parents when she went ahead and accessed a protected computer to create an online profile at Myspace.com to determine whether Megan, a 13-year-old teen was spreading false rumors about her daughter. Drew's daughter had informed her that her longtime friend, Megan has spread rumors that she is a lesbian. Drew in collaboration with her daughter and an employee decided to create a false profile of Josh Evans that was carefully tailored to explore Megan's weaknesses.
The influence of cyberbullying on self-esteem is an issue of significant concern among secondary school going adolescents regarding psychological well-being. Various studies have indicated that cyberbullying is negatively correlated with self-esteem. Megan felt socially inept, disliked and friendless that resulted in her emotional deregulation. The message that was sent to Megan made her internalizing the depression and loneliness she had been experiencing which made her loose self-control that gave her suicidal thoughts. Cyberbullying has a higher effect on isolation, which is related to poor peer relations. Megan was experiencing Loneliness that affected the psychological adjustments that made her get into a close relationship with a person she is not sure about. She did not have emotional control; she replied that to the offending message sent by Josh referring to her being of no substance to the world that " Josh was the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over."
Motivation/causation of United States v. Drew Case
Both adult and children are at risk of cyberbullying, particularly secondary school going kids such as Megan are vulnerable to strong indirect pressure such as peer pressure regarding social conventions. Therefore, statements such as the one directed to Megan has a significant impact than their effect on an adult. According to Yang & Salmivalli (2013), cyberbullying establishes different emotional impacts that range from low self-esteem to depression and anxiety. However, some researches have shown longitudinal results; the results show that some of the effects extend far into adulthood and cyber harassment is not limited to children alone. Therefore, cyberbullying affects both children and adults.
The death of Megan became the focus of a media storm one year later when it was in public that it was a neighbor responsible for her death. The growth of various social networking sites in magnitude that include Myspace increased the potential for harm in cyberbullying. This is caused by the more significant number of people affected by the offensive behavior and the fact that the usual internet user is disadvantaged because they do not have the resources to the identity of a user. Public awareness on cyberbullying and the rising fear of its impact on children has grown over the past decade after receiving high media attention for such cases such as that of Megan.
The federal argued that the court should not grant Drew because Megan's suicidal case is very probative in the context of her conduct after the death of Megan and the small detrimental influence does not out weight the considerable probative value. The government argued that by Megan committing suicide, it helps prove that Drew envisioned causing emotional distress to her and the mode in which Drew used Myspace was a continuance of the tort.
It is the severe emotional harm that cyberbullying has on minors that resulted to the federal public prosecutor in California to put federal charges for Drew, the adult woman that created the fake Myspace profile that impersonated a teenage boy. The profile was formed to develop a relationship with Megan and later conveyed a harassing message that prompted Megan to commit suicide. Suicide and consequent state prosecutions have drawn much attention to cyberbullying and have resulted to it being at the lead of legal discussions around the internet community. The regulations on cyberbullying majorly focus on peer-to-peer and the United States v. Drew case was slightly different because it involved an adult and a peer; therefore, the regulations were not applicable to the case to hold Drew accountable for her actions.
In United States v. Drew case, the federal attorneys used the criminal violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to indict Drew for accessing Myspace.com by a fraud means and using the social site to engage in a tortious behavior (Shultz, Heilman & Hart, 2014). The social site's term of use requires that a user provide personal accurate and truthful information. The act of the case was intentional to cause emotional harm where Drew would engage Megan in a series of actions meant to humiliate the thirteen-year-old.
Campfield, D.C. (2008). Cyber Bullying and Victimization: Psychosocial Characteristics of Bullies, Victims, and Bully/Victims. Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 288. Retrieved October 30, 2018, fromhttps://scholarworks.umt.edu/etd/288
Castle, S. (2009). Cyberbullying on Trial: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and United States v. Drew. Journal of Law and Policy,17(2), 21-28. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from https://brooklynworks.brooklaw.edu/jlp/vol17/iss2/5.
Shultz, E., Heilman, R., & Hart, K. J. (2014). Cyber-bullying: An exploration of bystander behavior and motivation. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace,8(4). doi:10.5817/cp2014-4-3
Steinberg, M. (n.d.). Law v. Internet. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from http://blogs.harvard.edu/marcsteinberg/2009/01/02/united-states-of-america-v-lori-drew/
Yang, A., & Salmivalli, C. (2013). Different forms of bullying and victimization: Bully-victims versus bullies and victims. European Journal of Developmental Psychology,10(6), 723-738. doi:10.1080/17405629.2013.793596
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