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
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