Monday, December 3, 2007

A MySpace world

We're living in a MySpace world. But sadly, the legal world hasn't kept pace with the online social networking issues. We see in two current news tidbits.

Think about it. Someone creates a fake profile, sends mean messages to your son or daughter, and causes the child to get very upset, depressed, possibly even suicidal. We see that in a news item from Missouri, where 13-year old Megan Meier hanged herself last year minutes after she received mean messages through MySpace. It seems this all came from a fellow teen's dissolved friendship, and apparently adults played a part in this whole ordeal. CNN reported in mid-November that Megan's parents hope the people who made the fraudulent profile on the social networking web site will be prosecuted, and they are seeking legal changes to safeguard children on the Internet.

Today, the prosecutor there says no criminal charges would be filed because no applicable statute exists to file charges in this case. Laws relating to stalking, harassment, and child endangerment don't apply, and there was no threats to the child's life and no organized conspiracy.

Secondly example: We have the Indiana Supreme Court considering a case this month delving into whether MySpace comments are considered protected free speech under the First Amendment. This one involves a student's obscenity-filled posting that blasted a school principal. The juvenile commented about school policy on body piercings on a page created by another student. Here's a story.

Both of these show how ill-prepared our laws are to deal with Internet sites such as this. With this online hangouts having upwards of 100 million users and Facebook having millions on its own, we aren't ready for the legal issues of these online powerhouses. It could be scary stuff. Will be interesting to watch the court cases on these Internet law issues, and how the law plays catchup. Wonder where we'll be when it finally happens.

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