Web hoax leads to suicide


Sal
#1
Megan Meier thought she had made a new friend in cyberspace when a cute teenage boy named Josh contacted her on MySpace and began exchanging messages with her. Megan, a 13-year-old who suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder, corresponded with Josh for more than a month before he abruptly ended their friendship, telling her he had heard she was cruel.

The next day Megan committed suicide. Her family learned later that Josh never actually existed; he was created by members of a neighborhood family that included a former friend of Megan's.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071117/...rnet_suicide_2

In your opinion should charges be laid against these neighbours? How deep is their responsibility?
 
lone wolf
#2
It's dicey, but when your contact is just someone on the Internet, you are in contact with someone who can be anyone they want to be. Let's face it: Truth is easy to hide and fantasy can be so real when you want to believe - and you can't prove otherwise.

Sure there's responsibility - but more a moral one than anything. The law can't support a belief. As cruel and cold as it sounds, until your eyes meet, that entity on the other end of any cyber relationship is just a you-generated image on a computer person.

Woof!
 
Tonington
#3
I'm hopeful that our criminal code has laws which cover this sort of act. Perhaps disorderly conduct, or willful negligence, spreading false news, there has to be something in there.

It certainly seems like criminal negligence to me. Or some sort of fraud.
 
Tonington
#4
If someone willingly converses with someone they know to be mentally unstable, and willingly creates a false persona to gain trust, and willingly says things that could only be seen as abuse or bullying, I think there must be grounds for legal action. I'm hopeful that there is at least
 
karrie
#5
A suicide mars an entire community because the onus falls on everyone in contact with a child to try at least in some small way, to ensure that they are happy and safe. This one will be no different. And chances are, having an entire community know that you were involved in the sinking depression of an individual, leading to their suicide, is more punishment than any court could ever dish out. A community scarred, looking at you and knowing you were partly responsible for dealing that injury? That's a pretty heavy sentence for their actions.
 
DurkaDurka
#6
It's a sad story but, impersonation is nothing new on the net, the only reason this is newsworthy is because the young lady had the misfortune of offing her self because of it. He/she told her she is "cruel", not exactly a catalyst for suicide in my opinion. The prankster is guilty of being a moron, that's about it.
 
karrie
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

If someone willingly converses with someone they know to be mentally unstable, and willingly creates a false persona to gain trust, and willingly says things that could only be seen as abuse or bullying, I think there must be grounds for legal action. I'm hopeful that there is at least

It's teens though T... none of them are mentally stable. They're almost all depressive and almost all prone to hysterics and drama addiction.
 
Tonington
#8
Right, but that doesn't excuse an adult from creating a false persona to learn about the conversations of teenagers on the internet, and then acting like one.

It's an extension of bullying.
 
DurkaDurka
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

Right, but that doesn't excuse an adult from creating a false persona to learn about the conversations of teenagers on the internet, and then acting like one.

It's an extension of bullying.

I agree, but charging someone for calling a messed up kid "cruel" wouldn't ever hold I am certain of.

I think the real danger from behaviour like that lays within adults pretending to be teenagers in order to pursue sex etc.
 
karrie
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

Right, but that doesn't excuse an adult from creating a false persona to learn about the conversations of teenagers on the internet, and then acting like one.

It's an extension of bullying.

true, but, the article wasn't clear that she actually was the one who created the final injurious messages.

While it's a morally devoid sort of thing to do, I don't know that it's a criminal issue. Like I said, the response of the community and the parents of the dead child will likely be more punishment than the legal system could dish out.
 
Tonington
#11
Well, it's not a criminal issue. I think that's what the parents of the young teen are trying to do, lobby for new laws. I don't think they're wrong either.

It's deviant behaviour as far as I'm concerned. I try my best to abstain from belittling people on forums too, because I often think that I don't know what the psyche of the people on the other end is like.


We don't accept bullying on the school yard. We don't accept fraud in public. Surely there is crossover appeal for a just system of law.
 
lone wolf
#12
Really, is there any way the Internet can be policed - except by parents or someone responsible? I am who I am, but does that necessarily mean the other half of this conversation is all they say? That's where being the yardstick we measure others by isn't the greatest of gauges. Anonymity is the greatest of places to hide low self esteem - and the Internet is a colder and crueller place than reality could ever be. Nobody online has ever got a pop on the chops.

Woof!
Last edited by lone wolf; Nov 19th, 2007 at 04:30 PM..
 
karrie
#13
I spent my first forum experience holding people up to the standards of real life.

I learned my lesson and spent almost two years staying away from the internet as a result of the evil that can spew out of people when given a notion of anonymity.

Now I maintain a certain amount of privacy. Talk little of my real life except in abstractions that can't really lead to me, and most importantly, that can't be used as barbs to tear at me with.

The internet can lead us to some wonderful people. But we have to show such extreme caution in taking them at face value until their true nature is proven. It's unfortunate, but it's the truth. And frankly, if a kid can't understand that (and few can IMO), they probably shouldn't be on social networking sites unless it's with people they know personally (like grandma, aunty, and REAL friends).
 
shadowshiv
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by SalView Post

Megan Meier thought she had made a new friend in cyberspace when a cute teenage boy named Josh contacted her on MySpace and began exchanging messages with her. Megan, a 13-year-old who suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder, corresponded with Josh for more than a month before he abruptly ended their friendship, telling her he had heard she was cruel.

The next day Megan committed suicide. Her family learned later that Josh never actually existed; he was created by members of a neighborhood family that included a former friend of Megan's.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071117/...rnet_suicide_2

In your opinion should charges be laid against these neighbours? How deep is their responsibility?

While charges may or not be laid in this case, there is something else that makes me think. Will any of the people that perpetrated this hoax feel remorse for their actions? I would hope that they do, and that they feel that for a good long time. Perhaps next time they will feel a little empathy for another human being, and make a different decision next time.
 
Sal
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshivView Post

While charges may or not be laid in this case, there is something else that makes me think. Will any of the people that perpetrated this hoax feel remorse for their actions? I would hope that they do, and that they feel that for a good long time. Perhaps next time they will feel a little empathy for another human being, and make a different decision next time.

A heavy burden for most to carry, but unfortunately likely not for all.
 
Brat
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshivView Post

Will any of the people that perpetrated this hoax feel remorse for their actions? I would hope that they do, and that they feel that for a good long time. Perhaps next time they will feel a little empathy for another human being, and make a different decision next time.

Lets hope so.....
 
shadowshiv
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by SalView Post

A heavy burden for most to carry, but unfortunately likely not for all.

I would never do something like that, but I know for a fact that if I did I would feel bad for that for the rest of my life.
 
Sal
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by shadowshivView Post

I would never do something like that, but I know for a fact that if I did I would feel bad for that for the rest of my life.

Well I would like to think that it was ignorance that led them to do it but I fear it may simply have been malice.
 
lone wolf
#19
I haven't a clue how things work in Missouri, but with Canada's Youth Justice Act, kids don't learn respect; they learn "rights".

Woof!
 
tracy
#20
People don't commit suicide because of what someone else does. The only person responsible for that choice is the person who makes it. Saying we should charge the people who were mean to them only reinforces the idea that someone is to blame for suicides. If you had been nicer, more attentive, called more often, cooked her dinner, maybe she wouldn't have killed herself? Families and friends torture themselves with this enough already.
 
karrie
#21
Very well put tracy.
 
gerryh
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

Very well put tracy.


Ditto
 
Tonington
#23
Well in this case, it's not being nicer, so much as not being an @ss.

We charge people for harassment for causing undue suffering.

If people weren't @ssholes in the first place, there wouldn't be this type of problem. But there is, and I think it needs to be dealt with.

I think it's premature to say that people don't cause suicide. They may not have caused the initial depressive state that the person is in, but that doesn't mean that the proverbial straw which broke the camels back doesn't bare some blame.

What it boils down to is do we as society want to sanction that type of behaviour.
 
lone wolf
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post

Well in this case, it's not being nicer, so much as not being an @ss.

We charge people for harassment for causing undue suffering.

If people weren't @ssholes in the first place, there wouldn't be this type of problem. But there is, and I think it needs to be dealt with.

I think it's premature to say that people don't cause suicide. They may not have caused the initial depressive state that the person is in, but that doesn't mean that the proverbial straw which broke the camels back doesn't bare some blame.

What it boils down to is do we as society want to sanction that type of behaviour.

...and that's the whole legal catch-all. Depresion was pre-existing so the lawyers will argue: Was it the condition or the mean trick? I hope the little brats have conscience enough to be haunted - but not enough to drive them to the easy way out.

Woof!
Last edited by lone wolf; Nov 19th, 2007 at 10:26 PM..
 
karrie
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by ToningtonView Post


What it boils down to is do we as society want to sanction that type of behaviour.

I guess you have to ask yourself, is society sanctioning this behavior in any way shape or form? There's a difference between putting a legal or criminal penalty to a behavior, and having social penalties for it.

Picking my nose and scratching my butt is not illegal in any way, but you can be guaranteed that society would show disgust toward me for engaging in them. It may not be illegal, but it's not excused either.

I think what these people are going to see is extreme disgust, isolation, and anger from their community, even if there's no legal punishment.
 
Tonington
#26
Well, I guess I was using the word sanction from a legal sense, as in formal decree. There are plenty of unwritten rules, like picking ones nose

There is a federal statute in the states that covers direct messages, but not postings for prosecuting internet harassment. It's a hole, and it needs to be fixed.
 
YoungJoonKim
#27
The girl had mental issue or was going through tough puberty.
She killed herself for such a awkward reason.
Gosh, I hate what this society teaches our young kids today [I am young but oh well].
 
tracy
#28
Our courts have enough to deal with without having to prosecute for hurt feelings. That's what this was. Can any of us honestly say we'd kill ourselves if someone was mean to us on the internet? Not if we're at all rational. This girl obviously wasn't. No one can predict suicide, especially not a bunch of other kids. I've told people I didn't want to speak with them again. It would never have occured to me that they could have commited suicide afterwords and I'd be to blame. At a certain point people are responsible for their own decisions, even if someone upset them.
 
lone wolf
#29
With some people, this whole Internet thing is their reality. Even in these forums we cross paths with people whose whole lives are here. What to some is like falling in love with a TV is too real to others - and you just can't know who they are until you step on a toe.

Woof!
 
triedit
#30
The whole situation is sad. I feel so bad for her parents.

But I also don't think the "fault" is on the hoaxer. Sure, it's a nasty thing, the harassment, but they aren't responsible for what the child did with it.

Yet another example of why we need to stay vigilant when it comes to our kids on the web.
 

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