Joined: 18 Aug 2004
|Posted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:34 am Post subject: Cyberstalking / Cyberbullying
|Cyberstalking / Cyberbullying:
Cyberbullied teen sues ex-Classmates, their parents, and Facebook
by Warren Riddle
|Denise Finkel (please don't sue us), a student at The University of Albany in New York, is suing four of her former high school classmates for supposedly bullying and harassing her on Facebook. The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, seeks damages of $3 million from the accused teens, their parents and the popular social networking site.
The defendants in the case, Michael Dauber, Jeffrey Schwartz, Leah Hertz and Melinda Danowitz, allegedly created a private, password-protected Facebook group that posted damaging statements about the plaintiff, including accusations that Finkel suffers from AIDS and took part in bestiality.
Increased reports of such Internet bullying and harassment have led to several other high profile lawsuits, and even prompted the European Union to actively fight Web harassment through an anti-bullying pact, which also seeks to protect under-age users from online predators. A total of 17 networking Web sites, led by MySpace and Facebook, signed the pact. MySpace and Facebook have also signed similar agreements in the United States with 49 State Attorneys General offices. MySpace, in particular, has received attention and criticism during the past several years for its role in two suicide lawsuits. The family of a 15-year-old girl in Texas sued MySpace after the young woman committed suicide when her 27-year-old lover called off their relationship. The family claimed MySpace facilitated the illegal affair. (see below)
MySpace also drew criticism when another teenage girl (Megan Meier)killed herself after neighbors created a fake MySpace account, purporting to be managed by a teenage boy (fictional Josh Evans). The young girl committed suicide after the neighbors (Lori Drew), under the guise of the fake account, told her the world would be better off without her. The resulting lawsuit is believed to be the first case involving Internet bullying.
Still a relatively new phenomenon despite our nation's litigious nature, these online defamation suits hinge upon cloudy legality. The current lawsuit includes documents that allegedly contain defamatory comments from the defendants, yet none of the statements specifically name the plaintiff. The mother of defendant Melinda Danowitz dismissed the suit as "completely frivolous" and said that her daughter "never wrote anything defamatory about anybody." Facebook is taking a similar stance, spokesperson Barry Schnitt stating, "We see no merit to this suit and we will fight it vigorously." [From: Newsday.com]
MySpace Sued Over 2006 Teen Suicide
By Kevin Poulsen
|The family of a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide following a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old man she met online is suing MySpace for allegedly facilitating communication between the two.
The lawsuit, filed in the 298th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas, accuses MySpace of negligence in a tragedy that began when then-14-year-old Kristin Helms, of Orange County, California, met the adult Kiley Bowers on the internet and began a sexual relationship over online chats and webcams.
An FBI affidavit filed in the original criminal investigation shows the two communicated through a variety of means. Helms initially contacted Bowers over Yahoo Instant Messenger after seeing his personal Geocities webpage. He later persuaded her to create a MySpace account, but they continued to use Yahoo IM and e-mail to send explicit webcam videos and photos back and forth.
The girl's parents tried to intercede, but in December, 2005, Bowers traveled from his home in Dallas to where Helms lived in Orange County, California. The girl snuck out of her home after midnight, and Bowers took her to a local motel, where they had sex.
About s. 230 of the Communications Decency Act and and defamation:
|Section 230 has most frequently been applied to bar defamation-based claims. In the typical case, a plaintiff who believes she has been defamed sues both the author of the statement and the website that provided a forum or otherwise passively hosted the material. Courts have held with virtual unanimity that such claims against a website are barred by Section 230.
But immunity under Section 230 is not limited to defamation or speech-based torts. Courts have applied Section 230 immunity to bar claims such as invasion of privacy, misappropriation, and most recently in a case brought against MySpace (Doe v. MySpace, 474 F.Supp.2d 843 (W.D. Tex. 2007)), a claim asserting that MySpace was negligent for failing to implement age verification procedures and to protect a fourteen-year old from sexual predators.
However, Section 230 explicitly exempts from its coverage criminal law, communications privacy law, and "intellectual property claims." In interpreting these exclusions, courts agree that Congress meant to exclude federal intellectual property claims, such as copyright and trademark, but they disagree whether state-law intellectual property claims (or claims that arguably could be classified as intellectual property claims, such as the right of publicity) are also exempted from the broad immunity protection Section 230 provides.
Finally, Section 230 does not immunize the actual creator of content. The author of a defamatory statement, whether he is a blogger, commenter, or anything else, remains just as responsible for his online statements as he would be for his offline statements.
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