The New York Times reports that social networking site MySpace has been subpoenaed in a Federal Grand Jury investigation into whether the conduct of a mother who sent allegedly harassing messages to a 13 year old Missouri girl while posing as a teenage boy constitutes fraud.
The case attracted international attention after the recipient of the harassing messages, Megan Meier, committed suicide. The last MySpace message sent to her before Meier hanged herself was “The world would be a better place without you”.
In Missouri, the case against the mother who was sending messages through MySpace was dropped, “ because current state statutes on harassment did not address Internet communication.”
Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specialises in privacy and free speech issues, suggested that the potential of this case to set legal precedent criminalising online speech is worrying.
"The right to speak freely online is hugely important. Whistle-blowers create pseudonyms," he said.
"So do many people who anonymously report on corporate or government bad practices."
Social networking sites are becoming increasingly central to many legal battlegrounds. In addition to our continuing posts concerning freedom of expression, this case will be an interesting one to follow.
We will continue to keep you posted on developments in this area.
- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto