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Journalists Can't Hide News From the Internet 377

Posted by Zonk
from the brave-new-world dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Robert Niles at the Online Journalism Review discusses the issues surrounding the recent tragedy involving a MySpace user. A newspaper reporting on the story didn't name the woman, citing concerns for her teen daughter. Bloggers went nuts, and soon uncovered the woman's personal information. Niles writes: 'The lessons for journalists? First, we can't restrict access to information anymore. The crowd will work together to find whatever we withhold ... Second, I wonder if that the decision to withhold the other mother's name didn't help enflame the audience, by frustrating it and provoking it to do the work of discovering her identity.'"
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Journalists Can't Hide News From the Internet

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  • by Travoltus (110240) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:31AM (#21395803) Journal
    Whether this was a real story or not, that woman did no one any harm; if she did Megan any harm, that's for law enforcement to deal with, not the rest of us.

    By digging up her personal information - for which no one had any real, legitimate use - much less posting it online - these bloggers have negligently put this entire family's safety at serious risk.

    Yes, information wants to be free blah blah blah - wait until the media puts the unwanted spotlight on you for some minor b.s. (that most of us don't even care to read about) and some Jezebel-esque nutball digs up your personal information - including where you live - and puts it out there for any unbalanced, easily enraged headcase to come dot your forehead with a 9mm shell. Or maybe they'll stalk and kidnap your kid instead.

    These bloggers ought to have their information put out there by law enforcement - as convicted criminals. Aiding and abetting, for starters, then implied terroristic threats.

    Here's the kicker, folks: when you put up the personal information of one person in the house, you put everyone ELSE there, at risk. Even their neighbors.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:39AM (#21395841)
      What about "outing" alleged criminals? Long before a person is convicted of cleared of robbery/rape/murder/etc. charges, their name and picture (from which the rest of their personal information can be easily found) are in the public eye for all to see and judge, whether they are in any way guilty or not. A public record is as good as a criminal one.

      IMO all arrest records should be sealed until a conviction is reached, and should be erased and destroyed upon acquittal.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Travoltus (110240)
        Outing alleged criminals is downright crazy. I've had to rethink my views on outing spammers because of that.

        You're right, of course - arrest records should be sealed until a verdict is reached, and then destroyed upon acquittal. I wonder what religious rightist or corporate statist argument that runs up against?
        • and there is fuzziness about guilt here, the perpetrator is known and fixed

          the local da was not going to press charges

          with all the heat, they say now they are going to review the case

          given that, the victim's parents decided to go public, against the advice of their lawyers, for exactly this effect: wide public knowledge and shaming of the perpetrator, and to warn people about what kind of mainpulations can go on
          • by insomnyuk (467714) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @07:12AM (#21396535) Homepage Journal
            Good for the parents in at least taken this public, if there is one redeeming factor out of all of this.

            The fact is, there is no FUZZY issue of guilt here - the fucking shit is clear as crystal - these adults were abusive towards a 13 yr old child w/ severe mental problems.
            • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @08:52PM (#21402115) Homepage
              Guilty of not being very nice, sure. Guilty of much criminal? I don't know, depends on what was really said and done. You can say a lot of mean and hurtful things without it being criminal at all, or at most a misdemeanor. She may have had severe mental problems, but were they publicly known? From the sound of it, even her mother didn't realize the seriousness of her condition. Were they being really mean to her or would she have gone equally off the cliff when her first boyfriend broke up? One thing is to pass moral judgement on them for the deception, but you also need to take a reality check on how much they truly contributed to her suicide. If all it took was a fake profile and someone she'd never met in real life, it sounds to me like she was ready to jump already. Or maybe I'm just a cynic because I had worse and got through. It's just that if I think of all the people in my class and how much some of them was hurt at times, we'd have several suicide victims at that rate. Yes, punish those that make other people's lives hell, but don't punish them for other people's inability to cope with normal live. I've seen some of both...
              • They were guilty of playing with her fucking head man -- in a despicably malicious way. She was vulnerable, and they drove her over the edge. She's now DEAD. She's lost her life, for fuck's sakes. That family is destroyed and without a daughter.

                This is worse than that attempted Texas teenage cheerleader murdering mom thing.

                How about if your daughter were stabbed with a knife? Would you merely call that "not nice"? They killed her, man.
          • Read the story [stltoday.com], and note who filed a police report. They put themselves on the public record a long time ago.
        • Really? When a murder conviction can take years to prosecute, I don't see how you can avoid the publicity without gag orders that would encourage corruption by allowing the prosecutors to drop cases they don't feel like pursuing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RodgerDodger (575834)
          Ummm... you want arrest records sealed?

          "Officer, my husband never came home from work yesterday - I want to lodge a missing person's report"
          "Sorry ma'am, he's not missing."
          "Then where is he?"
          "Sorry ma'am, I'm not allowed to say. That information has been restricted for privacy reasons. Oh, and it looks like he never got around to consenting that you could access his private information in regards to dealing with local law enforcement."

          Yeah, like that would bloody work.

          Arrests are public for the good of soci
      • What about "outing" alleged criminals? Long before a person is convicted of cleared of robbery/rape/murder/etc. charges, their name and picture (from which the rest of their personal information can be easily found) are in the public eye for all to see and judge, whether they are in any way guilty or not. A public record is as good as a criminal one.

        IMO all arrest records should be sealed until a conviction is reached, and should be erased and destroyed upon acquittal.

        What a brilliant idea -- let's give the police the power to arrest people, throw them into jail pending trial, and not tell anybody.

        The justice system needs transparency in a free and democratic society. What you're proposing has been done by all of the most oppressive regeimes in history as a way of making people "disappear". And while publishing an innocent persons arrest in a public manner may damage their public image, it's also a way to ensure that said person gets the best possible opportunity to defend themselves within the community. People who are secretly jailed never do.

        Yaz.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

          What a brilliant idea -- let's give the police the power to arrest people, throw them into jail pending trial, and not tell anybody.

          Good job on totally misunderstanding the original poster's point.

          He was not proposing that the police "not tell anybody" -- only that the decision to release the information about an arrest be up to the accused at least as long as the accused had not been found guilty.

          The NCIC, as just one example, is full of partial records that indicate arrest and even indictment but not acquittal.

        • by JavaRob (28971) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @08:17AM (#21396837) Homepage Journal
          It's not an "either/or" situation. We aren't choosing between complete transparency vs. no transparency whatsoever.

          The goal is a fair and structured hearing, and punishment or acquittal based on the laws, decided by a jury & judge as impartial as possible.

          With no transparency, the police can ignore the laws, and you might never see a jury at all.

          With complete transparency, any "interesting" crime will be first judged by the public, based on third and fourth-hand information with no legal repercussions for errors (it's not *perjury* when the local rag prints gossip and rumors that are dead wrong), and the jury will be tainted by exposure to this mess, and the accused will be punished by the public even if acquitted by the legal system.

          Think the public has no real power to exact punishment? You don't even need vigilante gunmen, though that can happen. No laws need be broken, though they might be. But "the public" includes your boss (soon-to-be former boss?), your neighbors (and their kids), the checkout person at the grocery store, your mailman, the guys at the bar, the technician from the phone company, the plumber, the teenagers at the mall, the pizza delivery guy, everyone. If your face is all over the web, if your home address and home phone are all over the web... well, first of all, they'll be all over the web for the rest of your life, because this stuff doesn't go away. Secondly, most people won't even say anything (they'll just stare after you as you leave), but you come into contact with hundreds of people... some of them will probably do something. Some people will actively seek you out to punish you, because vigilante justice is awfully tempting... I'll bet that's already happening with this family.

          With the "power of the internet", now they don't just need to worry about getting snubbed by the people on their street. They have to worry what percentage of the, say, 2 million people who've seen their address and phone number will actively contact them. 0.01 percent? Mom, there's 200 people at the door. They want to talk to you and dad. Are my numbers too low?

          So yeah, we need a balance.

          This story is horrible and sad, and I want everyone to read it and realize that the online world is real, and in some ways it's more dangerous than the offline world. You can do things you'd never be cruel enough to do to someone's face, and cruelty has real consequences.

          But I don't want to know where this family lives.
      • by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @08:50AM (#21396967) Homepage
        A number of Wikipedia users were "outed" by the website Perverted Justice (PEEJ). Not one of the users was what they said it was, and it named a few users (including myself) as supporters of child molesters. Eventually, PEEJ retracted the statements, but only very reluctantly.

        The problems here are that:

        a. What happens when the bloggers get it wrong? Let's say they accidentally type in the neighbour's address. Some poor bastard who had nothing do with the issue gets targeted.
        b. The bloggers are by and large anonymous also. It's sheer hypocrisy for them to hide behind a blog pseudonym and publish someone else's details.
        c. There is a reason we don't have martial law. Vigilantism is never a good move, mistakes are made, it bypasses due process and the right to a fair trial, innocent people are hurt. That's why Western democracies have the legal system they do: sure, it ain't perfect, but I'd rather us have a legal system that let uninformed bloggers pass judgement and mete out punishment.
    • by Travoltus (110240) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:41AM (#21395847) Journal
      When someone posts your address online over an alleged crime or slight, and you're the one whose tires are slashed or who has to confront a crazed gunman breaking down your door, you'll understand.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by pipingguy (566974) *
        When someone posts your address online over an alleged crime or slight, and you're the one whose tires are slashed or who has to confront a crazed gunman breaking down your door, you'll understand.

        Has this happened to you or anyone you know? If not, stop the fearmongering.
        • by Zarhan (415465) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:42AM (#21396037)
          When someone posts your address online over an alleged crime or slight, and you're the one whose tires are slashed or who has to confront a crazed gunman breaking down your door, you'll understand.

          Has this happened to you or anyone you know? If not, stop the fearmongering.


          There were several cases in Britain where The Sun or other quality magazines started to publish pictures of pedophiles. Too bad if you happened to look like the guy. Chances were you were soon hurting.

          But of course, the lynch mob can also be just a tad stupid - but what can you do if you're the one running from it: British vigilantes mistake a pediatrician for a pedophile [salon.com].
          • by pipingguy (566974) *
            Too bad if you happened to look like the guy. Chances were you were soon hurting.

            You're providing to me an example that you saw on the internet? Reread what I wrote: Has this happened to you or anyone you know?

            Just because something supposedly happened somewhere else that you heard about (and don't know the details of the situation) doesn't mean that you can make a blanket statement.

            I don't consider wright and wrong to be dependent on how many people agree with me, I make my own decisions and stand
            • You're providing to me an example that you saw on the internet? Reread what I wrote: Has this happened to you or anyone you know?

              Because the event didn't happen to that specific person, the comment doesn't invalidate it happens in general or that it could happen to you. Unlike you, lots of people observe what's happening to others in order to prepare and prevent that from happening to themselves. I presume you'd rather wait until it happened to you to start worrying about it.

              Just because something sup

              • by pipingguy (566974) *
                Because the event didn't happen to that specific person, the comment doesn't invalidate it happens in general or that it could happen to you. Unlike you, lots of people observe what's happening to others in order to prepare and prevent that from happening to themselves. I presume you'd rather wait until it happened to you to start worrying about it.

                I've edited your reply to the most interesting point.

                I see no justification in frightening or alarming people unnecessarily. You posit that I am uncaring fo
                • I see no justification in frightening or alarming people unnecessarily. You posit that I am uncaring for anyone other than myself, and by inference imply that you are more caring. You wrote: Unlike you, lots of people...

                  You severely misinterpreted then. The point I made was you don't seem to want to use evidence outside your sphere of influence in order to make conclusions and take individual action, which is a self-imposed limitation IMO.

                  Lots of people" are morons and parrot whatever they think they're

                  • by pipingguy (566974) *
                    People are morons, individual Persons are not (mostly).

                    I guess I'm arrogant and discriminatory now. You win, I suppose. Enjoy!
            • by thej1nx (763573) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @07:06AM (#21396503)

              You're providing to me an example that you saw on the internet? Reread what I wrote: Has this happened to you or anyone you know?

              As a matter of fact, yes. A family friend was named as a suspect in a well-publicized political murder case, by the media. Despite his being cleared of any possible links to the case, he was still ostracized by his neighbors as a "criminal with mafia connections". Now, do tell... what exactly was your point? You have asked me if it has happened with anyone I know, and I have given an example. So what will you do now besides calling me a "liar" and going back to your belief that is more or less "Lions don't exist because I have never seen one in real life myself"?

              What was exactly your point when you asked this silly question? That it happened to "someone else", so it was not your problem? How apathetic or shallow can you get?!!

              Was your brilliant argument that, it can "never happen to you"? I am pretty sure, that is what all those people thought as well, *till* it actually happened to them.

          • by haeger (85819) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @07:51AM (#21396703)
            It happened to me.
            I was a witness, my personal info got to the criminals (probably through their attorney) and soon thereafter the threats started. I armed myself for a few months after that and was very careful where I went and I was very detailed on where I was going, how, and when I was expected to show up (or get back home) to my friends and family.

            Now I'll think twice before volunteering to be a witness again.

            .haeger
             

        • by S.O.B. (136083) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:53AM (#21396063)

          Has this happened to you or anyone you know? If not, stop the fearmongering.


          How about Richard Jewell [wikipedia.org]? And this was the responsible media that did this to an innocent man. Imagine if that happened today with the virtual lynch mob of bloggers that are out there.
        • It happened to my roommate. (though not my roommate at the time)

          Nasty divorce, and the ex decided to publish his name, number, address, etc on a website dedicated to dead-beat dads. (No orders regarding support existed at the time, and he was voluntarily giving her 50% of his take home at the time until the ruling actually happened...)

          There were numerous death threats.
          He ended up having to sue the web site owner to have his information removed, and fortunately the threats ended up stopping.

          What really amaz
          • by pipingguy (566974) *
            That sounds like a psychological problem with her and something that should be looked-at carefully by those familiar with both people.

            I'm a divorced Dad and my ex and I are on great terms (early on there were a lot of issues, all emotional) but there was no threatened violence or ill will to either party. Some people are just "off-the-hook" and that can be understandable when it comes to emotions. That doesn't justify doing the kind of things you describe though, IMO.

            Spock was right, emotions can be dan
        • It happens to doctors who perform abortion on a far, far too frequent basis. And it happens to people accused of sexually harassing children, even in cases where the accusation is complete nonsense. (I'm thinking of a particular acquaintance who taught troubled children and was accused of sexual harassment by one of them, and the dates and times claimed by the child were clearly fraudulent.)
          • by pipingguy (566974) *
            Isn't this a psychological problem, though? It all seems to come down to a minority deciding to dictate to others what is "appropriate", sometimes escalating into real nastiness and violence.

            How many people do you personally know that are genuinely "bad"? By this I mean totally unreasonable individuals who are real assholish (aside from me, that is).
        • by thej1nx (763573)
          Has this happened to you or anyone you know? If not, stop the fearmongering.

          Well you are obviously clueless, but if you had ever *bothered* to check the news, anywhere other than slashdot, you would have seen it happening in lots of places.

          A reporter for a local tv channel in Delhi, India, accused a school teacher Ms. Uma Khurana, of coercing her students into a prostitution racket. With her name, workplace, home address etc. being supplied, a local mob beat her up. Later it turned out that the report

          • by pipingguy (566974) *
            I read your message, but your opening statement of "Well you are obviously clueless" made me think less of you immediately. You might want to work on your communication skills or try to be nicer to people that you perceive to be your enemies.

            My attitude is that blowing things out of proportion and using anecdotes to prove a point is often a sleazy tactic used by people pushing an agenda. I hope you're not one of those people that flies off the handle in indignation before thinking.

            • by amorsen (7485)
              I read your message, but your opening statement of "Well you are obviously clueless" made me think less of you immediately. You might want to work on your communication skills or try to be nicer to people that you perceive to be your enemies.

              You are obviously clueless.

              I hope you're not one of those people that flies off the handle in indignation before thinking.

              I hope you're not one of those people who like to molest children. And did you stop beating your wife? (Ok the last one doesn't work so well on Slas
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pallmall1 (882819)

        When someone posts your address online over an alleged crime or slight...

        When Curt and Lori Drew filed charges against the Meiers (the victim's parents) for destroying the foosball table that they had asked (after their sick "prank" had driven the Meiers' daughter to suicide) the Meiers to store in their house, they put their own names out in public. Read the story [stltoday.com]. When the Meiers learned of the Drews' direct involvement in causing the death of their daughter, they busted up the foosball table and dumpe

        • by Canordis (826884)

          Or, maybe, they just think one supposed crime (Is driving someone to suicide a crime? How the hell do you figure that?) isn't justification for committing another.

          • by Mike89 (1006497)

            Is driving someone to suicide a crime? How the hell do you figure that?

            I believe it should be. I mean, if someone did this to someone in your family (your daughter, sister, cousin, anyone), wouldn't you find it completely disgusting that it was 'legally sound'? What that mother did is absolutely appalling, she's caused the death of a poor, depressed young girl and completely ruined the lives of her parents. And then, to top it all off, they file charges against them for ruining a few hundred dollar toy!? G

          • by pallmall1 (882819)

            Or, maybe, they just think one supposed crime ...

            One crime? How about obstruction of justice by deleting the MySpace account? Hampering an investigation by telling a witness to withold information? There could have been sexual discussion between Megan and the adult, which opens a whole range of charges. And there's also the fact that others were drawn into the charade, including a minor.

            And you must be a hell of a foosball fan to think that what the Meiers did to that table (while it was in their hou

    • by SpeedyDX (1014595)
      I completely agree with you that people shouldn't dig up this information. They should respect others' right to privacy. If the woman did something wrong, it's up to the police to deal with it, not a mob (not even a virtual one). The problem is that these bloggers are usually people who don't agree with or understand the position that even those who commit moral "faux-pas" (for a lack of a better term - since I honestly don't know if the woman's actions constituted a crime) have these rights to privacy. The
    • I gotta go with the first comment on the linked article:

      In reference to the first example, does information excluded by journalists for ethical reasons and then found by bloggers suggest that ethics should change? I hope not.

      I find very little credulity in the "You can't hide the truth from us" self-righteousness espoused by many of the bloggers involved in this. They merely saw what they could gain from the situation, not what was ethically or morally right.

      Cringeworthy. But sadly, amongst many niceties, what I've come to expect from the "blogosphere" (cringeworthy name, in itself). Self-righteous vitriol and hyperbole seem far too common. "We're the new journalists, your ways are outdated." Bleh. In the rush to try to be the next big thing, seems "stopping and thinking" is an impediment to "first to publish/be pinged/trackbacked/make the Top 100 on Technorati/get on as many blogrolls as possible".

      • ...that doesn't mean we should.

        It's an old saying, but no less truthful for it. Modern technology makes communication, data storage and research into effectively free commodities. These things can be used for many constructive purposes, but a natural side effect is a loss of privacy.

        The thing is, society has adopted privacy as an accepted cultural value for good reasons. Society also typically frowns on vigilantism for good reasons. No-one is perfect, and if you tend towards a system where there is some

    • Well I guess I'm a terrible person for doing this then:
      A J Maxwell
      3013 Avenue G
      Birmingham, AL 35218-2410
      (205) 785-2680

      All of the above is legit info.
    • Whether this was a real story or not, that woman did no one any harm

      Oh? Trying to psychologically manipulate and hurt a 13 year old girl is not harmful? I'm pretty sure that if it was a 40 year old man pretty to be a young teen boy instead of a woman then their would be charges laid.

      if she did Megan any harm, that's for law enforcement to deal with, not the rest of us.

      Law enforcement REFUSED to deal with it. And let's face it, laws and how they are enforced is very political. It's not unexpected for a vacuum to be filled.

      By digging up her personal information - for which no one had any real, legitimate use - much less posting it online - these bloggers have negligently put this entire family's safety at serious risk.

      The US government puts people at risk all the time by publishing the names and addresses of people deemed to be "sex offenders" (I use th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vidarh (309115)
        Law enforcement REFUSED to deal with it. And let's face it, laws and how they are enforced is very political. It's not unexpected for a vacuum to be filled.

        That law enforcement didn't do anything is no excuse for vigilantism. If law enforcement doesn't do their job, you protest about law enforcement, not about someone you suspect of having done something wrong.

        The US government puts people at risk all the time by publishing the names and addresses of people deemed to be "sex offenders" (I use this ter

        • That law enforcement didn't do anything is no excuse for vigilantism.

          I am not encouraging vigilantism nor did I hear of any vigilantism going on. And there is no WAY that you can convince me that simply telling a story of what happened is in any way vigilantism.

          The US government puts people at risk all the time by publishing the names and addresses of people deemed to be "sex offenders" (I use this term lightly for the US, because of all the FUD and extremist politics).

          Ahh... The old "someone else does it too" defense. I suppose this means you think it's ok to murder too, since some states have the death penalty.

          It's no defense. I'm just merely pointing out the hypocrisy in people. I am against murder and the death penalty. Yep, I'm against playing mind-fuck games with children a

    • Aiding and abetting, for starters, then implied terroristic threats.

      I knew things were getting bad, but is this really how strong the state of fear has become? Gathering up publicly available information and making it available to others is now a sign of terrorism? Do people even know what "terrorism" means anymore?

      HELP SAVE YOUR COUNTRY! REPORT SUSPECTED INFORMATION SPREADERS TODAY!

      I'm sure we'll be much better off when spreading information earns a death sentence.

      Also, you seem to have about as much understanding of the internet as the "series of tubes" guy. If spreading

    • Perhaps that law should only be against people that get it wrong. Oh wait... there already is one... It's called libel and slander. If what folks say isn't true, and a law will help prevent that, then those laws are already on the books. Including harassment, etc. which would cover the posting of personal info so as to solicit illegal behavior.

      There's nothing wrong with shaming people for killing a kid, or contributing to the death of that kid.

      Or have you and the other million assholes on here defend
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vidarh (309115)
        None of the points you have listed make ANY difference. AT ALL. Or have YOU forgotten "innocent until proven guilty"?

        There's a large difference between the name being possible to find by going to the right places, and having it plastered all over the place. What is the purpose? The only purpose I can see of posting their identity is that people hope that "someone" is going to do something with that information.

        That's at best disgusting and makes people who does it scum in my eyes.

        If law enforcement is

        • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Sunday November 18, 2007 @07:35AM (#21396619) Homepage
          If law enforcement isn't doing their job, then you protest against law enforcement, you don't take enforcement into your own hands.

          how do you protest against law enforcement? Yhe whole purpose of this recent publicity was precisely to push law enforcement into action by stoking public outrage.

          the world is not a court of law. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a legal standard, not a moral one. There is no question about this woman's actions, or her identity. There are no significant facts in dispute, only legal and moral culpability. And yes, individuals and communities do have the right to judge moral culpability for themselves, with or without your permission.
      • Does the term "vigilante justice" say something to you?

        There's a reason we have a justice system. It's in place to avoid something like this. Just because you think someone did something, no matter how sure you are, doesn't make that person a criminal. More over, how should I verify whether what you claim is true?

        If a judge does not imprison someone, there is a reason for that. Judges don't go "Oh well, I don't feel like it today, let's let 'im go free". Yes, there are cases where the evidence is not strong
  • Seriously. Where does the news come from in the first place? US, the citizens of the world. You think you're going to be able to hide something? Only if you're deep in government connections, pal!
  • No sympathy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XNine (1009883) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:33AM (#21395813)
    There should be no sympathy for those who pose as fictitious characters only to create malice and havoc in others lives, whether it's online or in real life. I'm unsure if this woman will have charges brought upon her, but it wouldn't be unreasonable, imo. The simple fact she even did this shows that she's not even mature enough to have kids. Unfortunately, she'll probably plead "insanity" and get away with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you kidding? The girl died because she committed suicide. She chose to end her life. Basically, she was mentally ill. She could've killed herself for a thousand reasons. This family's only crime is being a bunch of hateful jerks.

      If new any new laws come out of this, you be SCARED SHITLESS.

      You want to be guilty for murder because, for example, you break up with your psycho girlfriend and she kills herself?

      Yeesh. I don't really like the idea of a society where I'm held responsible for other people's feeli
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You might have a point if the perpetrators were unaware of her mental illness. However, according to all reliable sources, they were well aware of her fragile mental state.

        You are not responsible for the feelings of others. However, you ARE responsible for your actions, and the consequences of those actions on the people around you. And if those actions were those of hateful jerks who manipulated the emotions of someone they KNEW to be mentally unstable, then yes, they are responsible for the death of th
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Seumas (6865)
        You are an idiot.

        The family that took advantage of a thirteen year old girl and manipulated and emotionally tortured her and even suggested suicide to her should be held civilly liable for their actions. I don't want a bunch of stupid internet laws to come out of this, because the internet wasn't the problem here. But to suggest that the problem is just a fucked up little girl is flat out stupid.

        Just like an adult must be held accountable if they manipulate a child into a sexual encounter, an adult must als
        • by jcr (53032)
          I'm pretty sure that anyone who made it through law school could convince a jury that the people who did this should be found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. What they did was depraved, and they'll pay for it.

          -jcr
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And in the meantime she deserves to be harassed and have her safety threatened by millions of idiots on the internet? Millions of idiots who've heard one side of the story.

      What do you do if we later find out the Myspace guy really did exist, and it wasn't the neighbor lady?

      Besides that, there's really no way they could've known the little girl would commit suicide. Yeah, if the lady did it she's a douchebag, but the little girl couldn't have been very mentally stable either.

    • by xPsi (851544) *

      There should be no sympathy for those who pose as fictitious characters only to create malice and havoc in others lives, whether it's online or in real life.
      Realize you just eliminated sympathy for almost all +5 Funny posts on slashdot.
    • by feepness (543479)

      There should be no sympathy for those who pose as fictitious characters only to create malice and havoc in others lives, whether it's online or in real life. I'm unsure if this woman will have charges brought upon her, but it wouldn't be unreasonable, imo. The simple fact she even did this shows that she's not even mature enough to have kids. Unfortunately, she'll probably plead "insanity" and get away with it.

      The woman who ran the phony page read your post and felt so bad she killed herself. Police are on the way to your house now.

      What do you think your sentence should be?

      • by NMerriam (15122)
        Seeing as how she's a grown woman and not a 13 year old, nothing. Surprisingly enough, the laws are written under the assumption that adults can take care of themselves, while children need some protection -- particularly from adults. Most societies on earth have the same moral assumptions as well.
  • More like.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:37AM (#21395831) Homepage
    ...that in a big enough group, there'll always be some asshats to publish anything. Even if you can't stop them, why help them?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:38AM (#21395837)
    And hiding information that can be found just makes people want to discover it. What right does another person have to this information that I don't? I doubt people were angry, just curious.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      And hiding information that can be found just makes people want to discover it. What right does another person have to this information that I don't? I doubt people were angry, just curious.

      I agree, frankly I feel there is a bit of upset over a loss of self-righteous enjoyment journalists gets from their positions in TFA. OMG, someone spilled the beans you didn't want to. You must be sad. Professional journalists are worried about the public and Web 2.0 usurping their jobs. Not because they have no talent (

  • The development of the internet has changed the way information flows in that traditional media no longer controls what information is being communicated en masse. This is the revolution of the internet which web 2.0 contributes to a great deal (as witnessed by the Digg's controversial attempt to suppress HD DVD encyrption key stories). We, the Slashdot community, all know this and have known this for a long while. However, Robert Niles who has now seen the power of the web first hand writes that becau
    • The development of the internet has changed the way information flows in that traditional media no longer controls what information is being communicated en masse

      The web 2.0 and information dissemination has come up a lot lately around where I work as well as everywhere else. I don't think there can be much control. It's like a swarm of Locusts. Massive numbers of autonomous units acting in sort of a predictable unified way. It seems to be acting mostly as a electronic lynch mob. The whole lord of the flies ideas rears it's head, once the normal limiting factors of society is removed you have nothing keeping us form regressing to tribal entities.

  • by stox (131684) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @03:50AM (#21395883) Homepage
    Tie a rock to them and toss them in the water. If they float, they're a witch. If they sink, they're not a witch. Repeat as necessary.
  • jokes on them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:04AM (#21395931)
    Don't worry, in 10 years time when the blogging generation is attempting to climb the ladder, we will have untold piles of dirt on them from their emo highschool years.
  • A novel idea... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:42AM (#21396033) Homepage
    Here's a more novel idea... Don't even print the things that don't need to be printed. Anytime Myspace in particular or the Internet in general can be connected to a crime || suicide || nuclear war the press goes nuts with the idea. There is no story here other than a girl committed suicide, like hundreds of other troubled teens. Yes, it's a horrible phenomenon, but it's no story in itself. The journalist could have written about the suicide phenomenon (which goes back as far as history does) but that's not interesting. Myspace-assisted suicide apparently is.
  • by renbear (49318) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:43AM (#21396039)
    More information from a less hysterical view (compared to the bloggers' accounts) is available at http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/17/internet.suicide.ap/index.html [cnn.com]. There's also a video clip including an interview with Megan's parents.

    This is a pretty messed up situation. The woman mentioned in the article summary is the mother of an ex-friend of Megan (the girl that committed suicide), and posed as a boy ("Josh") on MySpace trying to keep tabs on what Megan was saying about her daughter (Megan's ex-friend).

    Whether the woman created the "Josh" account is not up for debate-- it's from the police report*. Likewise, whether she pretended to be interested in the 14-year-old girl is not debatable. What is debatable is whether she was the person logged in to the "Josh" account when the taunting messages were sent, especially given three people from her family posed as "Josh", and were complicit in the deceit. Complicating matters, Megan's mother said the Wrong Thing At The Wrong Time to Megan, by the mother's account, minutes before the suicide. (It's abundantly clear she will never forgive herself for this.)

    As I said, it's pretty messed up. Were the mainstream media right in concealing the identity of the woman? I'm not so sure. It seems to me that too many times identities have been concealed, preventing true community backlash against perpetrators. It's clear the woman was at least partially culpable-- she didn't accidentally make the Josh character fall in love with Megan. On the other hand, the local community is already shunning the woman and her family, so is Internet Outrage really accomplishing any more?

    * Unintentionally leaked by CNN, and transcribed by a blogger using frame capture.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@nosPam.gmail.com> on Sunday November 18, 2007 @05:16AM (#21396131) Homepage

      It seems to me that too many times identities have been concealed, preventing true community backlash against perpetrators.

      Identities are concealed, as in this case, to protect the accused from community backlash. Folks often forget that the accused have rights as well. Forgeting to protect those rights, and encouraging a community backlash before they've had their day in court... Well that's headed back to bad old days of lynching and vigilante justice.
      • Especially because police make mistakes, witnesses can be threatened into silence, and some "crimes" are those of being a bit ahead of the legal curve on human rights, such as providing marijuana for cancer sufferers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by renbear (49318)

        Identities are concealed, as in this case, to protect the accused from community backlash. Folks often forget that the accused have rights as well. Forgeting to protect those rights, and encouraging a community backlash before they've had their day in court... Well that's headed back to bad old days of lynching and vigilante justice.

        I can understand that, certainly. However, in this case, there wasn't going to be a day in court. The DA originally decided not to pursue charges. Only after the recent attention have they decided to review the case. What does the community do then? I'm not surprised the outrage built as far as it did.

        Personally, I suspect no charges were filed because of the fact most of the shenanigans were online only, and poorly understood by the officials involved. That's only speculation on my part, though.

        • by vidarh (309115)
          Exactly how does publishing her identity make a difference vs. directing peoples rage at the DA's office where it belongs?

          Except where there is a direct and credible immediate danger to the community of not knowing someones identity (say a suspected serial killer that's free) I don't see any justification for republishing a suspects identity unless peoples AIM is to put them at risk of vigilante justice. To me, posting her identity online makes the posters the scum of the earth, and in the same category o

      • by Score Whore (32328) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @06:03AM (#21396319)
        I don't think you understand how the system really works. There are only two situations where "innocent until proven guilty" applies: 1) if you are illegally downloading copyrighted content(*), 2) you are smoking pot to stick it to the man. Then, even though what you are doing is against the law, you're innocent even though they caught you with a lit bong in one hand and adjusting your stylish pirate eye patch with the other while waiting for the latest Britney Spears album to upload(**). In all other cases the masses, I mean the self righteous, uber-sleuthing, information freedom fighters have a god given natural right to be entertained and proclaim guilt ignoring the processes of the courts.

        * - and then the claim that the bits on the wire spontaneously arranged themselves into a valid TCP/IP bit stream due to a quantum interaction of the large hadron collider and the heliosphereic current sheet, is considered a rock solid defense beyond both reasonable doubt and the preponderance of the evidence.

        ** - yes, Britney Spears, even though everybody on the entire planet realizes it's the same shit they record companies continue to put out and nobody wants to download it let alone buy it. Other than you and your hundred million best friends that is.
      • by houghi (78078)

        Well that's headed back to bad old days of lynching and vigilante justice.


        If it is good enough for the governement, it is good enough for me.
    • My my, you sure seem eager to convict and sentence this woman, and not just the woman but her entire family.

      Odd that if the RIAA wants to publish the names of people downloading, naming and shaming, people are against it, but in this case naming and shaming is a good thing. Why not bring out the tar and feathers. Hell why even bother with police at all, I got a rope right here and that tree looks sturdy enough.

      This woman is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Mob mentality is a serious issue,

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        But the most important thing here is, innocent until proven guilty.

        "Innocent until proven guilty" is a simplification of a more complex legal idea called "the presumption of innocence".

        Even if there is a video of you shooting someone in the head, execution style, you will still be have "the presumption of innocence"... by the legal system

        This does not mean you are innocent and it doesn't mean that I or anyone other than the Judge and Jury has to presume [wikipedia.org] that you are.

        Gobs of articles have been written about the presumption of innocence.
        I suggest you find a few and try to r

      • by NMerriam (15122)
        People are repeating information that is already publicly available through the police reports, which are public records. That the woman was involved is not in question, nor is her identity, nor are her actions, as she described them herself in the report to the police. The only questions are how much moral responsibility she carries, and if there is any legal responsibility.

        So basically, all of your arguments are meaningless, and your analogies are nothing like the case at hand.

        If someone calls up the RIAA
  • Depression (Score:5, Insightful)

    by king-manic (409855) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @04:53AM (#21396061)
    That is a serious depressing story. Playing with someone like that is awful. I feel the fact the Drews were not going to be punished in any way to be sort of unjust but I'm sort of uncertain of this mob mentality is really how to go about it. Sure public shamming and the economic and social ruin of their lives seems about right but what happens when someone takes it a step further? It's so mixed up.
  • Speaking of digging a hole for yourself, here's a link to a comment thread on digg that refers to one of these instances:

    http://digg.com/world_news/Adults_drive_14_year_old_to_suicide_by_harassing_her_on_MySpace?t=10557557#c10557557 [digg.com]

    I'll just repost my comment here, just in case it's not obvious that those posts were done by me:

    Right... /me wonders if the St. Charles Journal would have posted that news article if they knew it would take this little time to get the names they were trying to suppress, based on the data given in the article (assuming the timing is correct).

  • by xPsi (851544) * on Sunday November 18, 2007 @05:30AM (#21396189)
    What disturbs me the most isn't that there are random assholes on MySpace (or the Internet, for that matter) taunting people (I don't like it, but assume this -- 30 milliseconds on any FPS multiplayer server desensitizes you to that). Nor that a girl committed suicide (which is sad). Nor is it that some wacko blogger decided to post public information in an act of vigilante blog-justice (which is indeed very strange and unsettling). It's the implications of the comments on the jezebel blog [jezebel.com]. The comments on the other linked sites in the article are similar. It is clear these people (do they represent a typical American cross section?), have this attitude like: "if its on the internet it must be true exactly how it is printed. I want blood NOW!" No critical thinking. No common sense. No reality testing. Just pure reactionary tooth-and-claw emotion. It is the worst sort of groupthink one can imagine (wait, sounds a little like another popular internet forum I know about...oh, nevermind). A couple examples. One blogger writes "I'm not a vengeful person when it comes to my own life, so it always surprises me that my first instinct when I hear of these things happening to others is to plot murder." Oh really? Good to know. How about "If there was a loving God, so many people would be sterile. The parents playing 'Josh' [the fake MySpace account] are a good example." It actually makes slashdot seem like a pretty reasonable, organized, dare I say, civil place. Its a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday November 18, 2007 @06:12AM (#21396349) Journal

    Not for the details involved but for the slashdot reaction. a lot seem to be in support of the naming and shaming.

    That is nice, would they be just as supportive when the RIAA deciced to publish their names for illegal filesharing and they get expelled from their schools, told to leave their jobs, asked to resign from their clubs?

    There is a reason we put the law into the hands of the legal system and have deciced that lynchings are wrong. The simple problem is that of where does it end.

    Say that this woman's daughter now commits suicide, is it then right for her family to publish the bloggers personal details? Publicly try them on the internet?

    Innocent until proven guilty, presumption of innocence, trial by jury. My how quickly these ideals seem to be forgotten when blogging is involved. Note that when it is the other way around and some blogger gets exposed "slashdot" has shown an almost fanatical support for the sancitiy of privacy.

    A few months ago slashdot had a story about internet driven vigilantism in South-Korea where this kind of naming and shaming is claimed to be far more common, the odd thing was that then the general attitude seemed to be that this was an extremely bad idea.

    So how come that some slashdotters now support it? Is it the magic of the word blog? The idea that the MAN was outwitted, freedom by all means and damn the consequences?

    Should the dutch teens who stole items from an online game be named and shamed? Should the blogger who published this info have every part of his private life put on the web for all to see?

    Since this is a suicide where the whole community failed, why aren't they all being named and shamed. Why not print a list of all the people involved, everyone that could have talked to the girl, made friends with her, and publish them under the headline, "where were you!".

    Some people seem to think that blogs are a magical something, they are not. They used to exist before, they were called pamphlets and people with enough motivation would write them and print and distribute them and say in them what they wanted in the name of "The truth".

    They were back then the perfect tool to incite the mob. It is on paper, therefore it must be true, lets lynch them.

    A few years ago in england a woman's house was attacked because the mob thought she was a pedofile. The evidence was clear as day, she had a sign on her door that said so "Pediatrician".

    Consider this, if this woman is guilty of the suicide, then is any suicide that follows the publishing by the blogger the guilt of the blogger? What if the blogger is outed and kills himself? Where does it end?

    The community taking the law in their own hand, it sounds tempting and sometimes seems to be the only solution but it never works. The law often fails us, but we should then change the law, not simply ignore it.

    But think of this, do you really want there to be law that puts people to blaim if they said the wrong thing to a person who commits suicide? Better not mod me down, it might make me commit suicide.

    Should society decide who needs to be punished? I would dearly love to name and shame every drunk driver out there, everyone who ever hurt someone in an "accident" that could easily have been avoided.

    Before you support naming and shaming, ask yourselve wether someone else might not have you on their list.

  • by DeanFox (729620) * <spam.myname@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday November 18, 2007 @09:09AM (#21397039)

    My thinking is less focused on the idiot "adult" who did this scam as it is on her parents.

    Megan did not survive long enough to reproduce. Fault? Blame Darwin or Megan's parents. Take your pick. Or, perhaps parents in general nowadays.

    Let me explain. Megan had problems and felt bad about herself? Why? (actual question, not a setup) She was beautiful. Where were her parents? How in the fcuk could a beautiful girl like that grow up not believing, *knowing* she has value.

    I tell you waht (sic), when I felt bad about myself going through puberty, and kids do, I was *corrected* by my parents. Corrected as in almost short of discipline in a way. I was corrected for not thinking. That was followed by a very understanding and thoughtful teaching by my parents. They did what they were supposed too do and taught me self respect, correct body image (with what I had to work with) with proportional value in what a pimple actually means in the grand scheme of things. What an adult should be thinking.

    It is unfathomable to me that what someone said could bring a person to suicide. And, I blame Megan's parents. Megan, at 13, was on psychotic drugs? WTF!? Sure, the "adult" who perpetrated this scam needs psychiatric help but the suicide I put on her parents.

    My son was only on loan to me. And I took my parenting job very seriously. It was the most important achievement I was tasked with as a human being. On a scale of 10 with parenting on top, even paying the mortgage falls in at about 2. Nothing comes before raising a child. At least for me. (Thank you Mom and Dad).

    What I returned was a happy, well adjusted, contributing member of society. Someone who thankfully doesn't understand the need for plastic surgery. I guarantee there's nothing, not one thing you could say, even as a teenager, that would even bring him close to suicide. Knowing my son, I suspect you're more likely to get a polite and understanding "thank you" after rejecting him than any other response. He understands that rejection, in the long run, is a blessing. Why didn't Megan understand this? Their little snowflake is gone. And I blame them; they can blame Darwin and you can think whatever you want too. As far as I'm concerned, they fcuked up IM,NOH,O.

    -[d]-

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