Missouri hopes to crack down on Internet harassment, but drafting legislation to fit the problem might be much tougher than first thought.
A special task force began reviewing the topic in light of the Megan Meier tragedy. Megan was the St. Louis County teen-ager who committed suicide shortly after being a victim of a cruel Internet chat room hoax.
University of Missouri law professor Doug Abrams is a member of the task force and has been guiding members through tricky legal waters. He says any legislation drafted this session must be able to stand up to a First Amendment challenge. Abrams suggests lawmakers concentrate on regulating conduct rather than speech. He says a good place to start is using the current harassment statute as a guide, because it has been upheld in court.
Even as the task force makes its recommendation to the legislature, members acknowledge that lawmakers might have trouble fashioning anything to fit the Megan Meier case. In it, Megan became a victim of a hoax perpetuated by adults apparently intent on getting back at Megan for the perceived snub of their daughter.