Cyberbullying

Blue Mountain School District v. J.S.

Date: 

03/01/2007

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

J.S.; K.L.; Terry Snyder; Steven Snyder

Type of Party: 

School

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Case Number: 

3:07-cv-00585 (trial court); 08-4138 (appellate court)

Legal Counsel: 

Mary E. Kohart; Christopher T. Leahy; Meredith W. Nissen; Mary Catherine Roper

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

In March 2007, the Blue Mountain School District suspended two eighth-grade students after they created a fake MySpace profile for James McGonigle, principal of the Blue Mountain Middle School in Pennsylvania. The MySpace page did not identify McGonigle by name, but it included his picture from the school district's website and identified the person depicted as a "principal." According to court documents, the profile characterized the principal as a sex-obsessed pedophile, and it was laced with profanity and other negative comments about McGonigle and his family.

The school determined that, based on the creation of the fake profile, the two students had violated the school discipline code, which prohibits making false accusations against school staff members. It also determined that the students violated the school's computer use policy, which informs students that they cannot use copyrighted material without permission, by obtaining McGonigle's photo from the school district's website. As a result, the school suspended the two students for ten days out-of-school.

One of the students, going by the initials "J.S.", sued the school district, McMonigle, and the school district superintendent for violating her First Amendment rights. She argued, among other things, that the school could not constitutionally punish her for out-0f-school speech that did not cause a disruption of classes or school administration. The court denied her request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, and later granted summary judgment to the school district, ruling that the school could discipline lewd and vulgar off-campus speech that had an effect on campus, even if this effect didn't amount to a "substantial disruption" under Tinker v. Des Moines Ind. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969).

J.S. has appealed the ruling to United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Update:

02/04/2010 - The Third Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision granting summary judgment to the school district. The Third Circuit held "... that Tinker applies to student speech, whether on or off campus, that causes or threatens to cause a substantial disruption of or material interference with school or invades the rights of other members of the school community."

04/09/2010 - The Third Circuit granted J.S.'s petition for an en banc rehearing of her appeal.

06/03/2010 - The case was argued before the Third Circuit en banc.

06/13/2011 - The Third Circuit en banc reversed the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the School District on the student speech claims and remanded to the District Court. The court, en banc, held that an exception to Tinker set forth in Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986), holding that a school district can discipline students for lewd, vulgar, and offensive speech, if it has an effect on the school and educational mission of the district, did not apply to this case.  Accordingly, the Third Circuit concluded "that the Fraser decision did not give the School district the authority to punish J.S. for her off-campus speech."

10/18/2011 - The School District filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.  

01/17/2012 - The Supreme Court denied the School District's Petition for Certiorari. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 2/23/09 - VAF

aVM 6/12/09- appeals case was argued a few days ago, put up link to article about its implications, will check back later

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Jury Finds Lori Drew Not Guilty on Felony Charges

Wired/Threat Level reports:

Lori Drew, the 49-year-old woman charged in the first federal cyberbullying case, was cleared of felony computer-hacking charges by a jury Wednesday morning, but convicted of three misdemeanors. The jury deadlocked on a remaining felony charge of conspiracy.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Lori Drew Trial Ongoing, Legal Issues Still Unclear

Lori Drew's trial for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) began this week.  There has been some great coverage of the proceedings, including the following highlights:

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Violet Blue v. Burch

Date: 

07/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David "Ben" Burch; Nina Alter

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco

Case Number: 

CCH-08-568060 (Burch); CCH-08-568061 (Alter)

Legal Counsel: 

Mark Levine (for Burch); Nina Alter (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Wiki

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied

Description: 

In July 2008, sex columnist Violet Blue requested a restraining order in San Francisco Superior Court against David "Ben" Burch and Nina Alter.  Blue claimed that Burch sent her a threatening email, that Alter published disparaging statements about her on Burch's blog Kicking Pebbles, and that both posted several disparaging statements about Blue on Boing Boing and her Wikipedia page.  The court denied Blue's request for a restraining order, finding that she failed to meet her burden of proof.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Subject Area: 

Lori Drew Trial To Start Next Week

Believe it or not, the criminal case against Lori Drew heads to trial next Tuesday. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles indicted Drew last May for her alleged role in a hoax on MySpace directed at Megan Meier, a 13-year-old neighbor of Drew's who committed suicide in October 2006.  Prosecutors claim that Drew violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

United States v. Drew

Date: 

05/15/2008

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lori Drew

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Central District of California

Case Number: 

08-CR-582

Legal Counsel: 

H. Dean Steward; Orin S. Kerr

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

On May 15, 2008, Lori Drew was indicted in federal court in California for her alleged role in a hoax on MySpace directed at Megan Meier, a 13-year-old neighbor of Drew's who committed suicide in October 2006 after a "boy" she met on MySpace abruptly turned on her and ended their relationship. The boy was allegedly Lori Drew, who pretended to be 16-year-old "Josh Evans" to gain the trust of Megan, who had been fighting with Drew's daughter.

The grand jury charged Drew with conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030. The indictment charges that

[o]n or about the following dates, defendant DREW, using a computer in O'Fallon, Missouri, intentionally accessed and caused to be accessed a computer used in interstate commerce, namely, the MySpace servers located in Los Angeles County, California, within the Central District of California, without authorization and in excess of authorized access, and, by means of interstate commerce obtained and caused to be obtained information from that computer to further tortious acts, namely intentional infliction of emotional distress on [Meier].

Update:

06/16/2008- Drew pleaded not guilty.

07/23/2008- Drew filed three motions to dismiss the indictment on grounds of failure to state an offense, vagueness, and unconstitutional delegation of prosecutorial power.

08/1/2008- Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society submitted an amicus brief supporting dismissal of the case

09/4/2008 - In a hearing, Judge Wu denied Drew's motions to dismiss the indictment based on vagueness and improper delegation of authority, but kept her motion to dismiss for failure to state an offense under advisement. 

11/05/2008 - Drew filed a notice of waiver of her right to a jury trial, but the government refused to consent to the waiver.  Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23, a defendant cannot waive a jury trial without the consent of the government. 

11/10/2008 - Judge Wu indicated in pretrial conference that he was inclined to grant Drew's motion in limine to exclude evidence of Megan Meier's suicide at trial on grounds of lack of relevance and tendency of the evidence to unfairly prejudice the jury.

11/14/08 - Judge Wu indicated at a hearing that he would allow evidence of Megan Meier's suicide at trial, but that he would instruct jurors that the case was not about the suicide and that Drew is not charged with causing the suicide.

11/26/08 - The jury returned a verdict acquitting Drew on the felony CFAA charges and finding her guilty on misdemeonor CFAA charges. The jury deadlocked on the felony conspiracy count. Counsel for Drew indicated that he would file a motion for a new trial, and the court set a hearing for December 29, 2008.  The court took the Drew's renewed motion for judgment of acquittal under submission.

12/30/08 - The Government filed an ex parte application to dismiss the felony conspiracy count (Count 1) without prejudice.  Drew responded, arguing that dismissal should be with prejudice.

1/8/09 - The court held a hearing on Drew's motion for judgment of acquittal, but did not make a ruling. Judge Wu indicated that he might issue a written ruling within two weeks.

7/2/09 - Judge Wu announced that he would be dismissing all charges against Drew.

8/28/09 - Judge Wu issued an opinion granting Drew's motion for judgment of acquittal.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Texas Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Principal's Lawsuit Over Fake MySpace Page

Last week, the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio, Texas upheld the trial court's dismissal of Clark High School vice-principal Anna Draker's lawsuit against two students and their parents over a fake MySpace profile. Benjamin Schreiber and Ryan Todd allegedly created a fake MySpace page for Draker in 2006, which contained her name, photo, place of employment, and explicit and graphic sexual references implying that she was a lesbian.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Berkman Cyberlaw Clinic, EFF, and Net Law Luminaries File Amicus Brief in Lori Drew Case

We've posted before (here and here) on the tragic Megan Meier suicide case, in which a 13-year-old neighbor of Lori Drew committed suicide in October 2006 after a "boy" she met on MySpace abruptly turned on her and ended their "relationship." In

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Kruska v. Perverted Justice Foundation

Date: 

01/10/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Perverted Justice Foundation, Inc.; Xavier Von Erck; Christopher Brocious; Barabara Ochoa; Filmax Inc.; April Butler; David Butler; GoDaddy.com; Bob Parsons; MySpace.com; John Does 1-60

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Case Number: 

2:08-cv-00054

Legal Counsel: 

Aileen Delcarmen Ocon, Marcus R Mumford, Peter B Morrison (Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom) (for PJFI, Von Erck); Steven Gerald Ford (Alvarez & Gilbert ) (for Brocious, Ochoa); Robert Christian Billar (Leyh Billar & Associates) (for Filmax.com, Bul

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Social Network
Website
Wiki

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

Jan Kruska sued several anti-pedophile organizations, including Perverted Justice Foundation, Inc. ("PJFI"), and individuals affliliated with those organizations, as well as domain registrar GoDaddy.com and social networking site MySpace.com, after the organizations accused Kruska of being a predator, a pedophile, and pro-pedophile on various websites, including JanKruska.com and JanKruska.net. Kruska sued for defamation, copyright infringement, cyberstalking and harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") in Arizona federal court.

In August 2007, self-described journalist Kruska began to receive what she described as "venomous" emails after she criticized the overbreadth of anti-pedophile laws. Soon after, the Absolute Zero United blog and PJFI's Wikisposure and Corporate Sex Offender websites posted accusations that Kruska was a convicted child molester and a pedophile, according to the complaint. The defendants allegedly posted similar accusations on MySpace.com, as well as on websitesJanKruska.com and JanKruska.net, both of which were registered byFilmax.com through GoDaddy.com. Some of the websites also allegedly posted personal information about Kruska, including her address, and photographs of Kruska that she says are copyrighted. In addition, Barbara Ochoa, aka Petra Luna, allegedly organized a protest targeting publishers of Kruska's writing, which Kruska said resulted in her articles being taken down. Further, Ochoa allegedly emailed Kruska, demanding Kruska remove her "entire web presence" or else face a "full scale activist attack" against her.

Kruska filed her complaint in January 2008. It sought damages and a preliminary injunction, barring thedefendants from "disseminating claims that [Kruska] is a 'Predator', 'Child Molester', 'Child Abuser', 'Pedophile', and 'Pro-Pedophile' bypostings on the internet, mass mailings, e-mails to friends, relatives,employers, business associates, among others; or otherwise by any othermeans making such suggestions."

In response, GoDaddy.com, Ochoa, and PJFI all moved to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds. In April 2008, Kruska voluntarily dropped her claims against MySpace.com. In June 2008, the court granted Ochoa's motion to dismiss, but gave leave to Kruska to amend her complaint against Ochoa, which she did. In July 2008, the court granted GoDaddy.com's motion to dismiss on the ground that CDA 230 precluded liability. The court also seems to have dismissed trademark claims against GoDaddy on CDA 230 grounds, which Eric Goldman notes is unusual.

Update

6/12/2009 - The court denied  Butler's new motion for summary judgment pending discovery.

8/7/2009 - Kruska moved for summary judgment on her copyright infringement claims against Von Erck and PJF.  She claimed any arguments for fair use failed as a matter of law.

8/28/2009 - Von Erck and PJF answered Kruska's complaint with affirmative defenses including a First Amendment defense, fair use, lack of damages, and a lack of personal jurisdiction.

9/22/2009 - The court denied Brocious' motion to dismiss Kruska's amended complaint.  

10/13/2009 - The court denied Kruska's motion for summary judgment on her copyright claims pending discovery.

11/18/2010 - Court issued order granting in part and denying in part Christopher Brocious' Motion to Dismiss and denying Brocious' Motion for Summary Judgment. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 2/12/09 - VAF

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

The (Proposed) Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act Is Crazy

In a twist on the old adage "hard cases make bad law," Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) introduced a bill (H.R. 6123) in the House on May 22 which, if passed, would be known as the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Lori Drew Indicted For Misuse of MySpace in Megan Meier Suicide Case

Lori Drew was indicted on Thursday for her alleged role in a hoax on MySpace directed at Megan Meier, a 13-year-old neighbor of Drew's who committed suicide in October 2006 after a "boy" she met on MySpace abruptly turned on her and ended their relationship. The boy was allegedly Lori Drew, who pretended to be 16-year-old "Josh Evans" to gain the trust of Megan, who had been fighting with Drew's daughter.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Federal Grand Jury v. MySpace

Date: 

01/08/2008

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySpace

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of California

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

The Los Angeles Times reported that a federal grand jury in Los Angeles has begun issuing subpoenas in the Megan Meier case, the Missouri teenager who committed suicide after a "boy" she met on MySpace abruptly turned on her and ended their relationship. According to the Los Angeles Times, the boy was allegedly Lori Drew, a neighbor who had pretended to be 16-year-old "Josh Evans" to gain Megan's trust.

According to anonymous sources who spoke to the LATimes:

Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, however, are exploring the possibility of charging Drew with defrauding the MySpace social networking website by allegedly creating the false account, according to the sources, who insisted on anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

The sources said prosecutors are looking at federal wire fraud and cyber fraud statutes as they consider the case. Prosecutors believe they have jurisdiction because MySpace is headquartered in Beverly Hills, the sources said.

Update:

05/15/2008- The grand jury indicted Lori Drew.See the related threat entry, United States v. Drew, for more information.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Grand Jury Issues Subpoena to MySpace in Megan Meier Suicide Case

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that a federal grand jury in Los Angeles has begun issuing subpoenas in the Megan Meier case, the Missouri teenager who committed suicide after a "boy" she met on MySpace abruptly turned on her and ended their relationship.

Subject Area: 

Missouri Town Makes Online Harassment a Crime After Megan Meier's Suicide

City officials in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri unanimously passed a measure on November 21 making online harassment a crime, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. The city's six-member Board of Aldermen passed the ordinance in response to 13-year-old Megan Meier's suicide.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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