A teen-age suicide in St. Charles County drew national attention to a growing problem: harassment via the Internet. A special task force hopes to give lawmakers guidelines on how to address the problem.
The tragic case of 13-year-old Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie woke up many to the dangers of anonymous chat over the Internet. Megan hanged herself, apparently after a boy she knew only through Internet chat turned from friend to foe. It wasn’t a boy at all, but adults getting back at Megan for the perceived snub of their daughter.
The Director of the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services, Brian Keedy, is a member of the Internet Harassment Task Force. He says there is a consensus among task force members that children, including teen-agers, must be protected from harassment originated by adults.
University of Missouri Law Professor Doug Abrams says any proposed law must speak to the state of mind. Prosecutors would have to prove a criminal state of mind and that the person broke harassment laws, either through intent or negligence.
Task force members believe the quickest route to address the problem likely is updating present harassment statutes to include 21st Century technology. Also under consideration is removing any language that ties the law to a form of communication and focusing solely on the communication without reference to how it is delivered.