The mother of 13-year-old Megan Meier says the law should criminalize the kind of the Internet hoax that led her daughter to commit suicide.
After Megan had a falling out with a friend in their suburban St. Louis neighborhood, the friend's mother created a phony suitor on MySpace who wooed Megan for several weeks and then turned on her. After the MySpace character called the girl fat and told her the world would be better off without her, Megan hanged herself.
For now, the St. Charles Journal, the paper the broke the story, has decided not to publish the name of the other family. Reporter Steve Pokin says that could change if police were to file charges or the Meiers were to file suit against the family — or if the family were to file its own suit.
Meanwhile, so-called cybervigilantes have outed the family, plastering their names and personal information on blogs across the Internet. A handful of newspapers and other media have also revealed the names in their coverage.
Pokin says that the unnamed mother declined to be interviewed, and that the situation in Dardenne Prairie, Mo., remains tense. The two families live on the same block. "There have been acts of vandalism against the other family," he says. Megan's father has been accused of using his truck to tear up the other family's lawn.
The upwelling of public rage and sorrow took Pokin and his colleagues by surprise. "I've never experienced anything like this," he says, "and I doubt that I ever will again."
On our blog, a tough question: Should news organizations name the other family?