Wednesday, January 9, 2008

False identities, aliases, pen/stage names

Many of you have heard about the teenage girl, Megan, that took her own life after being rejected by a "boy" on MySpace. This profile actually turned out to be created by her one time friend and this friend's mother. In fact, the mother admitted to creating the profile in order to track the online activities of Megan. Unfortunately, the St. Charles, Missouri prosecutors felt they could not provide enough evidence to prove who made the last post that led to the suicide.

Personally, I believe there were a number of things that the prosecutors could prove, and they should have charged her with something. Now LA prosecutors have. They are charging her with defrauding MySpace by providing a false information.

To my great regret, as much as I would like to see this woman locked up for a very long time, I feel the moral requirement to defend her. What the prosecutors are charging her with is acting on her Constitutional right to anonymous free speech. Everyone deserves the right to create an anonymous account on any site they desire. This has been enshrined in political speech for centuries by political writers writing under pseudonyms. Stage actors can act under any name they want. And, in a great irony, from the above article, this right is strongly enshrined in the press:

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.

Emphasis added.

We should not give up the right to privacy. No matter how many trolls we have to put up with on Slashdot, no matter how much spam I (my filters) have to deal with, it is our right, and their actions cannot take that away from us. The woman should be prosecuted for what she did, but I will not give up my liberties just to get her charged with anything.

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