In the wake of Megan's death, demonstrators protested outside the Drew family's home while bloggers posted their address and phone number online on sites such as RottenNeighbor.com.

Mum May be Charged With Defrauding MySpace

School bullies blamed as second pupil commits suicide

by Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are considering charging a woman with defrauding MySpace for allegedly setting up a fake account and harassing a Missouri teenager who killed herself after receiving cruel messages on the site, according to reports.

January 10, 2008

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed Beverly Hills-based MySpace as part of a probe into the suicide of Megan Meier, 13, who thought she was communicating with a 16-year-old boy on the social networking site, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The messages turned out to be fake sent from an account overseen by the mother of a former friend of the girl.

Megan, from suburban St Louis, Missouri, hanged herself in her bedroom after receiving upsetting messages from a fictional boy she had befriended online, including one which said the world would be better off without her.

The case of cyber bullying sparked a national outcry, but Missouri prosecutors ultimately decided not to bring any charges in the case, determining that no laws appeared to have been broken.

Federal investigators in Los Angeles are now considering charging Lori Drew, the mother of a former school friend of Megan, with defrauding MySpace by creating a false account.

They are looking at federal wire fraud and cyber fraud statutes and say they have jurisdiction because MySpace is based in Beverly Hills, the paper reported.

The account was allegedly used by Mrs Drew, her daughter and a teenage employee to trick Megan into believing she was communicating with a 16-year-old boy.

Mrs Drew told police she "instigated and monitored" the account solely to see what Megan was saying about her daughter but has denied creating it or knowing about the unkind messages.

The Los Angeles Times reported that several grand jury subpoenas relating to the case had been issued last week, including one to MySpace.

The subpoenas require the parties approached to testify at a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a prosecution to proceed.

Mrs Drew's lawyer, Jim Briscoe, said the family had not been subpoenaed and he knew of no-one else who had received a subpoena.

Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Loyola University Law School, said if the government convened a grand jury it would be trying to create a case in which MySpace would be the victim of a fraud -- meaning the person who perpetrated the fraud could be prosecuted.

"The whole case is curious," she said, and could raise First Amendment issues of free speech.

In the wake of Megan's death, demonstrators protested outside the Drew family's home while bloggers posted their address and phone number online on sites such as rottenneighbor.com.

In response to the suicide, the state governor, Matt Blunt, convened an internet task force which on Tuesday finalised a proposal to make it a crime for adults who use online technology to harass children.