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6/16/2008
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Missouri Mom To Be Arraigned On Cyberbullying Charges Related To Teen's Suicide

The indictment marks the first time that a social networking site user has faced federal charges related to accessing protected computers for harassment.

A Missouri mother accused of harassing a 13-year-old girl through MySpace is due for arraignment today on federal charges of accessing protected computers without authorization and conspiracy in an unprecedented case prompted by the teen's suicide.

Prosecutors said Lori Drew, 49, violated MySpace's terms of use and illegally created an account pretending she was a 16-year-old boy to trick Megan Meier and inflict emotional distress on the girl. Meier killed herself in October 2006 immediately after Drew and others taunted her online.

The Los Angeles indictment marks the first time that a social networking site user has faced federal charges related to accessing protected computers for harassment.

Prosecutors said Drew posed as a fictitious boy, Josh Evans, and feigned romantic interest in Meier before turning on her and saying "the world would be a better place" without the 13-year-old girl.

Meier hanged herself and died the next day.

"This adult woman allegedly used the Internet to target a young teenage girl, with horrendous ramifications," U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said while announcing the indictment last month. "After a thorough investigation, we have charged Ms. Drew with criminally accessing MySpace and violating rules established to protect young, vulnerable people. Any adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering Web site to bully or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs to realize that their actions can have serious consequences."

On a recent trip to New York City for a conference focusing on cyberbullying, Meier's mother said that Megan Meier had argued with Drew's daughter in the past and had a hard time fitting in. Not long before she killed herself, she seemed to be blooming into a more self-assured teen, her mother said.

MySpace prohibits people from using fraudulent registration information; using accounts to obtain personal information about juvenile members; using the MySpace communication services to harass, abuse, or harm other members; and promoting false or misleading information.

If convicted, Drew faces up to five years imprisonment for the conspiracy count and up to five years for each of three counts charging that she accessed protected computers without authorization, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California. She has also been the victim of cyberbullying since news of her alleged actions became public.

The case is in California because that's where MySpace's servers are located. Prosecutors consider the social networking site a victim in the case.

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