WORLD

A new form of neighbourhood watch

REBECCA ADDELMAN December 10 2007
WORLD

A new form of neighbourhood watch

REBECCA ADDELMAN December 10 2007

A new form of neighbourhood watch

WORLD

REBECCA ADDELMAN

It’s fitting that the bulk of the outrage surrounding Megan Meier’s suicide can be found online. It was there, on the social networking site MySpace, that 13-year-old Meier developed a crush on a cute boy, Josh Evans, who had asked to be her “friend.” For the emotionally fragile Megan, who for years had battled weight and self-esteem issues and who took medication for ADD and depression, the friendship was a therapeutic balm. Her parents, Ron and Tina Meier, said she’d never been happier than when exchanging fun, flirtatious emails with the 16-year-old Evans. That is, until Josh became nasty, calling Megan a bitch, slut, and, recalls her father, sending a message that said “The world would be a better place without you.” The same night that message came through, Megan hanged herself in her closet.

Now, more than a year after the suicide, neighbours in the quiet St. Louis suburb of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., have discovered that Josh Evans never existed—he was a fabrication of area mother Lori Drew, who was upset with Megan for ending a friendship with her own daughter—and they want revenge. Discovering that there was technically nothing illegal about Drew’s online tormenting (prosecutors couldn’t find a statute applicable to the case), locals have begun some cyber-bullying of their own. Using websites such as rot tenneighbor.com and hitsusa.com, they’ve posted photos of the Drews along with their address, phone numbers and emails, inviting a flood of hate mail and vandalism. “We just want them gone,” said Kriss, a disgruntled neighbour.

The Meiers aren’t condoning the Internet vigilantism. They’re asking that concerned citizens instead help them lobby to change the law, so that future cases of adult-on-child bullying can be deemed a crime. A nice thought, but the angry online mob seems to have found its niche. As one blogger exclaimed, “This is why I love the Internet hate machine.” M