In 2006 a Missouri teenager hanged herself after being rejected by a 16 year old boy she met on MySpace. Well, at least that’s what she thought. The reality was the “16 year old boy” was really the mother of one of the girls former friends.
The motive? It seems the mother was allegedly trying to exact revenge on Meier, who had allegedly dissed her daughter. This sick, twisted and childish choice took and emotional toll on a young person who was emotionally vulnerable and cost her – her life!
According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog: ”
Missouri authorities looked into the case, but didn’t file any charges against the mother for her alleged role in the hoax. They couldn’t find any criminal statute under which to try and hold her responsible for the girl’s death. The case touched off a national uproar over Internet laws and cyber-bullying.”
The Los Angeles Times reports:
But after months of investigation, no charges were filed against Lori Drew for her alleged role in the hoax. Prosecutors in Missouri said they were unable to find a statute under which to pursue a criminal case.
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.
First, I think we would all agree that an adult’s actions perpetrated in fraud that contributed to the death of a teen is an extraordinary tragedy. But what should be done? What should the consequence be if you use fraud to contribute to the death of another? What pain was wrought on the parents of this young girl? And, what pain, if any, has the mother involved here felt – knowing that a fraudulent MySpace account was a contributing factor leading to the death of this young girl?
Every choice has a consequence!
As an ethics speaker, I routinely speak to young people – both college and high school – about the choice they make and the consequences that follow. http://www.chuckgallagher.com
I readily admit that this story is a tragic example of how easily an unsuspecting person can become caught up in something where the consequences are beyond belief.
Reported in the Suburban Journals on November 13, 2007 by Steve Pokin is the following excerpt:
His name was Josh Evans. He was 16 years old. And he was hot.
“Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at him!” Tina Meier recalls her daughter saying.
Josh had contacted Megan Meier through her MySpace page and wanted to be added as a friend.Yes, he’s cute, Tina Meier told her daughter. “Do you know who he is?”
“No, but look at him! He’s hot! Please, please, can I add him?”
Mom said yes. And for six weeks Megan and Josh – under Tina’s watchful eye – became acquainted in the virtual world of MySpace.
Josh said he was born in Florida and recently had moved to O’Fallon. He was homeschooled. He played the guitar and drums.
He was from a broken home: “when i was 7 my dad left me and my mom and my older brother and my newborn brother 3 boys god i know poor mom yeah she had such a hard time when we were younger finding work to pay for us after he loeft.”
As for 13-year-old Megan, of Dardenne Prairie, this is how she expressed who she was:
M is for Modern
E is for Enthusiastic
G is for Goofy
A is for Alluring
N is for Neglected.
She loved swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music and boys. But her life had not always been easy, her mother says.
She was heavy and for years had tried to lose weight. She had attention deficit disorder and battled depression. Back in third grade she had talked about suicide, Tina says, and ever since had seen a therapist.
But things were going exceptionally well. She had shed 20 pounds, getting down to 175. She was 5 foot 5½ inches tall.
She had just started eighth grade at a new school, Immaculate Conception, in Dardenne Prairie, where she was on the volleyball team. She had attended Fort Zumwalt public schools before that.
Amid all these positives, Tina says, her daughter decided to end a friendship with a girlfriend who lived down the street from them. The girls had spent much of seventh grade alternating between being friends and, the next day, not being friends, Tina says.
Part of the reason for Megan’s rosy outlook was Josh, Tina says. After school, Megan would rush to the computer.
“Megan had a lifelong struggle with weight and self-esteem,” Tina says. “And now she finally had a boy who she thought really thought she was pretty.”
It did seem odd, Tina says, that Josh never asked for Megan’s phone number. And when Megan asked for his, she says, Josh said he didn’t have a cell and his mother did not yet have a landline.
And then on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, Megan received a puzzling and disturbing message from Josh. Tina recalls that it said: “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.”
Frantic, Megan shot back: “What are you talking about?”
Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, was a rainy, bleak day. At school, Megan had handed out invitations to her upcoming birthday party and when she got home she asked her mother to log on to MySpace to see if Josh had responded.
Why did he suddenly think she was mean? Who had he been talking to?
Tina signed on. But she was in a hurry. She had to take her younger daughter, Allison, to the orthodontist.
Before Tina could get out the door it was clear Megan was upset. Josh still was sending troubling messages. And he apparently had shared some of Megan’s messages with others.
Tina recalled telling Megan to sign off.
“I will Mom,” Megan said. “Let me finish up.”
Tina was pressed for time. She had to go. But once at the orthodontist’s office she called Megan: Did you sign off?
“No, Mom. They are all being so mean to me.”
“You are not listening to me, Megan! Sign off, now!”
Fifteen minutes later, Megan called her mother. By now Megan was in tears.
“They are posting bulletins about me.” A bulletin is like a survey. “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”
Megan was sobbing hysterically. Tina was furious that she had not signed off.
Once Tina returned home she rushed into the basement where the computer was. Tina was shocked at the vulgar language her daughter was firing back at people.
“I am so aggravated at you for doing this!” she told Megan.
Megan ran from the computer and left, but not without first telling Tina, “You’re supposed to be my mom! You’re supposed to be on my side!”
On the stairway leading to her second-story bedroom, Megan ran into her father, Ron.
“I grabbed her as she tried to go by,” Ron says. “She told me that some kids were saying horrible stuff about her and she didn’t understand why. I told her it’s OK. I told her that they obviously don’t know her. And that it would be fine.”
Megan went to her room and Ron went downstairs to the kitchen, where he and Tina talked about what had happened, the MySpace account, and made dinner.
Twenty minutes later, Tina suddenly froze in mid-sentence.
“I had this God-awful feeling and I ran up into her room and she had hung herself in the closet.”
Megan Taylor Meier died the next day, three weeks before her 14th birthday.
Later that day, Ron opened his daughter’s MySpace account and viewed what he believes to be the final message Megan saw – one the FBI would be unable to retrieve from the hard drive.
It was from Josh and, according to Ron’s best recollection, it said, “Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.”
To read the entire article click here: http://suburbanjournals.stltoday.com/articles/2007/11/13/news/sj2tn20071110-1111stc_pokin_1.ii1.txt
Some questions for your response:
- What, if anything, should happen to those who participated in this cruel hoax?
- Should there be laws that make such behavior (on-line) criminal (fraudulent accounts, etc.)?
- Do the parents have any culpability in this as they allowed their daughter on MySpace?
The copyrighted world wide definition of ETHICS involves TWO PARTS:
- Doing specific things to make yourself and the world better, and
- Avoiding doing other specific things (i.e. setting boundaries for yourself to avoid) so that you don’t needlessly hurting yourself, or others with BAD personal judgment
There is no question that the fake MySpace account was an ethical violation by any standard I can find. Perhaps our teens (and younger) need to learn early on the power of ethical choice.
Chuck Gallagher’s work with teens and ethics:
The Choices Foundation is a tax-exempt charitable non-profit organization established by Chuck Gallagher to accomplish two educational purposes.
First, the Choices Foundation supports providing ethical educational presentations, workshops, and keynotes to universities, colleges, high schools and religious organizations. Chuck, and other speakers, talk to young people about ethics, honesty, integrity, the choices they make and the consequences that follow.
The Choices Foundation believes that if you make an impression about ethics on young people before they enter into the business community or become established in adulthood by helping them see the relationship between choice and consequences, they may become more personally and professionally productive and ethical adults. After all, personal integrity and ethics are the backbone of adult society.
Second, the Choices Foundation provides educational scholarships to children who come from a disadvantaged background and/or whose parent(s) are incarcerated. Education can help break the cycles of poverty and poor choice, yet those who need an education the most are those who can least afford to receive the benefit. Hence, the Choices Foundation is established to help fund that need and uplift our underprivileged youth.
For information on my presentations to youth, please visit my web site at http://www.chuckgallagher.com/foundation.php
Comments are welcome!