Jury reaches verdict in “cyberbullying” case

A few days ago I wrote a post about the US v. Drew case. That case has now been concluded (for the time being) with the jury finding Drew guilty of guilty of three misdemeanor offenses of accessing computers without authorization. Each offense is punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $100,000.00 fine.

Although this case leaves many legal questions in the air, I agree with New York lawyer, Nick Akerman, who said: “What you learned is that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is an extremely important tool in the federal arsenal against computer crime.”

What does the US v. Drew case mean for social media marketers?

If you have not yet heard anything about the seriously tragic US v. Drew case, it may be difficult to answer this question. Here is a short recap of the facts in the case:

Lori Drew is a mother accused of helping to create and use a fake MySpace account (of a 16 year old “stud” named “Josh”) to torment a female teen who later committed suicide. Drew allegedly considered the plan a clever and comical way to deal with a teen-girl (Megan Meier) who she thought was spreading ugly rumors about Drew’s daughter. The plan was authored by Drew’s employee, 20-year-old Ashley Grills. Megan Meier eventually hanged herself after receiving an email from “Josh” which read “the world would be a better place without you.”

Drew is charged with of violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act by providing false information to MySpace to establish “Josh’s” account, violating MySpace policies by obtaining information about Meier, and using the account to “intentionally inflict emotional distress” on the teen.

Social media marketers beware, while the facts of this case are far-outside of the realm of run-of-the-mill social media marketing, this is a landmark Internet law case which will set a precedent SMM’s/SMO’s will need to understand. When people read the facts of this case they get caught up in the drama and assume it is a case about whether Drew caused the suicide of Megan Meier. Wrong. The real issue in this case is whether Drew violated the terms of service of the MySpace social networking site.

How many social media marketers REALLY take the time to read, understand, and comply with the terms of service of all of the different social media sites they use on a daily basis? The number of us who can answer that affirmatively is probably fewer and further between than it should be.