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MySpace suicide case based on breach of terms and conditions

UPDATED: A US woman has been indicted on charges of perpetrating an online hoax because she violated MySpace's terms and conditions. Prosecutors reason that a violation of contract terms can lead to criminal convictions.22 May 2008

Sixteen-year-old Megan Meier killed herself when she received cruel messages from an online friend, 16-year-old Josh Evans, through MySpace. It then emerged that Evans had never existed but was an online alter ego created by Lori Drew, a 49-year-old woman.

State authorities initially investigated the incident but found no laws on which to launch any action against Drew. Federal prosecutors, though, launched an action based on MySpace's terms and conditions.

In order to send messages to Meier, they argued, Drew would have had to sign up to MySpace, providing false information to create an account for the fictional Josh Evans. That would have involved giving at least a fake name and date of birth, both banned under the terms and conditions.

Prosecutors said that because her activity was conducted in violation of the terms and conditions of the site, it became unauthorised use of the service.

A federal grand jury in California has indicted Drew on charges of conspiracy and on three counts of accessing protected computers without authorisation to get information used to inflict emotional distress on Meier, Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors are expected to argue at trial that a violation of MySpace's terms and conditions can be extrapolated into an offence.

Editor's note, 23/05/08: This story initially suggested that a verdict had been returned in the trial of this case. We apologise for that error.