People who create fake Internet accounts on social networking sites should be prosecuted, regardless of the purpose of the accounts, a woman whose daughter committed suicide after being the victim of an online hoax said Wednesday.
Tina Meier said she doesn’t believe there are innocent reasons for setting up accounts under fictitious personas.
“Making a false account is not OK,” Meier said during an interview with TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira in New York. “You’re still defrauding somebody, whether you’re finding out a cheating boyfriend or girlfriend, whether you’re doing it as a joke to play with somebody. Any of those things, to falsify it, you’re doing it in a way that’s not truthful, and it doesn’t need to be done.”
Meier’s daughter, Megan, was just short of her 14th birthday when she hanged herself in her closet in October 2006 after being victimized by a hoax on MySpace. A former friend with whom Megan had had a falling-out created an account for a fictitious 16-year-old boy, “Josh Evans,” who supposedly had just moved into their community in St. Charles County near St. Louis. The boy made friends with Megan, a girl who battled ADD and depression and who had entertained thoughts of suicide several years earlier.
When “Josh” suddenly turned on Megan and told her “the world would be better off without you,” she took her own life.
Megan’s parents kept silent for a year while federal, state and local law enforcement authorities investigated whether Lori Drew, the mother of the girl who created the account, could be charged with harassment. When they decided no laws covered the situation, the Meiers went public with their story and vowed to fight for laws to cover what happened to their daughter. Drew, who said her business and her life have been destroyed by the media attention and by hostility in their community, has remained unapologetic.