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US gov't slammed over 'MySpace suicide'

Anti-hacking law stops anonymity on the web

The Center for Democracy & Technology has slammed the US government for prosecuting a woman who started a MySpace cyberbulling campaign, which resulted in the suicide of a 13-year old girl.

Lori Drew was charged last week with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers after impersonating teenager 'Josh Evans' through a fake MySpace profile and fooling neighbour Megan Meier into an online relationship with Evans.

Drew then abruptly ended the romance and taunted Meier, which eventually resulted in the girl hanging herself in the closet of her bedroom. Drew now faces a maximum of five years in prison on each of the charges.

However, digital advocacy group the Center for Democracy & Technology warned that using an anti-hacking laws to prosecute Drew compromises the anonymity of web users.

"If the charges against Drew are upheld, it will be a serious blow to anyone who wants to remain anonymous on the internet," said Brock Meeks, a CDT spokesman.

"Everybody that is sympathetic to this case and saying finally we've got something to nail her on here, they're not looking hard enough at the fact that the Justice Department blundered by using this anti-hacker law," he said.

The charges suggest that anyone who uses a fake name to sign up for a web service like Yahoo or Gmail could be charged with a federal crime, Meeks said.
"If that's a federal crime, then I'm certainly guilty and there are probably a million other people out there who are probably also guilty."

A spokesman with the Department of Justice declined to comment for this story.

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