Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Examining The Laws Surrounding Cyber-Assault

At 13-years old, Megan Meier had her whole life in front of her. Although she had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and was on the antidepressant Zoloft since the third grade due to suicidal thoughts, Megan was harassed into an early grave.

Megan had been conversing via with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. But as the world-wide-web can be a vehicle for people to create false identities and mislead others, six weeks after Megan’s suicide, her parents learned that Josh Evans was an online pseudo-persona created by Lori Drew, 47, who lived four houses down the street.

In Lori Drew’s final message to Megan, she writes, “The world would be a better place without you.” Claiming to create the profile of 'Josh Evans' to win Megan’s trust and learn how Megan felt about her daughter, to whom she had a 'falling-out' with, no charges have been filed against Ms. Drew. St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, Lt. Craig McGuire, said that what Ms. Drew did “might’ve been rude, it might’ve been immature, but it wasn’t illegal.”

Knowingly harassing and cajoling a minor by an adult via the Internet, is not currently punishable. However, in response to this innocent loss of life, the local Board of Aldermen in Missouri unanimously passed a measure making Internet harassment a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Questions arise as to how this measure will be enforced. What if Ms. Drew did not live in the same town as Megan? What if Ms. Drew did not even reside in the United States? Would these laws be applicable to her still?

The first initiative to regulate cyberspace was taken by the federal government in the Communications Decency Act of 1995. The purpose of this bill was to make illegal the circulation of indecent materials through interactive media, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission. The act criminalized anything indecent or obscene but it was struck down as unconstitutional for being a violation of the First Amendment.

The Child Online Protection Act passed in 1998 with the purpose of protecting minors from harmful sexual material on the Internet. But once again, the federal courts have ruled that the law violates the constitutional protection of free speech, and therefore have blocked it from taking effect. Another issue plaguing the regulation of online content is that cyberspace is a world that exists without regard for physical location. Web users are free to move from web page to web page and server to server, without obstructions. So how do you regulate and enforce laws in cyberspace? And should there be involvement by a governing body?

Extraterritoriality is when a nation’s legal authority extends past its territorial borders. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hartford Fire case held that the concerted refusal by London re-insurers to sell certain types of reinsurance to insurers in the United States violated the Sherman Act. The re-insurer’s actions in England were legal under English law. But the Court determined that the re-insurers were nonetheless subject to US regulation because their actions “produced substantial effect[s]” in the United States. U.S. law thus regulated the activities of English companies in England at the expense of the non-application of English law. Similarly, had an English court applied English law to adjudge the re-insurer’s acts to be legal, it would have produced ‘spillover effects’ on consumers in the United States . This makes the enforcement of laws extraterritorial.

In Cyberspace, since information flows simultaneously in all territorial jurisdictions, unilateral regulation of the local effects of cyberspace transmissions become near impossible. Information is like air; we cannot just draw a line in the air and stop it from moving and being used by people elsewhere. In this case, however, Ms. Drew was a ‘supposed’ friend and neighbor, residing within the same jurisdiction as the victim of this appalling hoax.

Assault is an attempt to menace; although not directly threatening her, Ms. Drew assaulted Megan through false impersonation. First Amendments right are the cornerstone of this country, but not all speech is protected under the law and online laws to protect children need to be revisited. Not just against sexual predators but all predators looking to harm a child.

Topic 9: Sovereignty, Advisor Mitch Kapor
Topic 10: Democratic Structures, Advisor Mike Fischer
Child Protection Act:
A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges:

A Taser For Christmas? Marketing Assault With A Deadly Weapon

"It is light, it’s small, it comes in colors…” beams Lynne Rigberg, the host of a Taser party in Scottsdale, Arizona. Show your loved one's how much you care this holiday season with this 50,000-volt gift of false safety. Taser International is marketing these weapons for everyone after only a brief demonstration of its use. You too can render the slightest harasser immobile - “You cut me in line at the supermarket, now you’re going down!”

Tasers deliver a 50,000-volt shock designed to override the subject’s central nervous system, causing uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue and instant collapse. Taser International has stressed that Tasers are not designed to stop a target through infliction of pain but work by causing instant immobilization through muscle contraction. However, even officers subjected to a fraction of the normal Taser discharge during training have reported feelings of acute pain.

There are two types of Taser guns, “touch” stun guns for close range and dart projectile mode that has two fish-hook like darts designed to penetrate up to two inches of the target’s clothing or skin. Many ‘victims’ of Tasers have reported burn marks from the guns. Pointing out an obvious question, what is the sanitation of these hooks? They can penetrate two inches of skin, does the amount of voltage prevent disease transfer?

Considering our bodies are 70% water and transfer electricity through all parts of the nervous system, one might believe that 50,000 volts may have long-term effects, especially brain damage, at the slightest exposure. While a Taser gun would be less damaging to an assailant than a bullet-driven gun, both are supposed to be used with extreme caution and as a "last resort".

However, even law enforcement officers are not using Tasers as a last resort. On October 14th 2007, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, 40, was traveling to join his mother, who lives in British Columbia, when he ended up spending approximately 10 hours in the airport's arrivals area, The Canadian Press said. Needing an interpreter, 4 Canadian Mounties approached the man, at which time he raised his hands and calmed down. With the absence of any threatening gestures, Mr. Dziekanski was Tasered by one of the mounties within moments. Falling to the floor, screaming, Mr. Dziekanski was tasered once again. Unarmed, confused and frightened were his final moments alive in the Vancouver International Airport.

Touting Tasers as a deterrent and not a weapon, people can and will feel compelled to use tasers whenever they want. With no legal limitations on when a person can and cannot use these deadly weapons, we have opened the floodgates for people to Taser each other at whim.


“Excessive and Lethal Force?” Amnesty International,,

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