Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crossing the Line

Submitted for post by Linda.
In May 2008, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Lori Drew for her part in the hoax that led to the suicide of Megan Meier. The indictment alleges that by establishing a fake persona for the sole purpose of gathering information and harassing Meier, Lori Drew defrauded Myspace and harmed Meier.

From the above article:

"According to the indictment, Myspace users agree to abide by terms of service that include, among other things, not promoting information they know to be false or misleading; soliciting personal information from anyone under age 18 and not using information gathered from the Web site to "harass, abuse or harm other people."

Opening arguments began on November 19th with the federal prosecutor stating that Lori Drew conspired with her teenage daughter and an adult teenage employee of their now defunct business to "humiliate Megan Meier." The former employee is being granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against Drew. Drew's defense lawyer offers a different perspective saying that Drew knew about the plan to trick Meier but neither encouraged nor participated in it.

Well, someone deliberately developed a false persona on that infamous MySpace page and the consequence was the suicide of Megan Meier. Whether it is legally proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person responsible for that hoax was Lori Drew remains to be seen. Morally, it is reprehensible.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, the fact that has even gone to trial is a kind of "Slow Down" sign on the kind of free-for-all that has existed on the internet. I'm as much of a believer and proponent of free speech as the next person except when that speech is used to harass innocent people.

So obviously my mind is wandering back on the information super highway to the hoax perpetrated by Penn Mommy, as well as the blogs GWOP and the original Truth Breeds Hatred published by Aunt Jodi's sister. I think that there will always be more questions then answers, but nonetheless they are questions worth asking:

Did Penn Mommy create a fake persona for the purpose of humiliating and embarrassing the Gosselins? Or was it for the purpose of humiliating and embarrassing posters who practice Christianity?

Did the moderators from GwoP and Aunt Jodi's sister know the information that Penn Mommy was offering was false and support it anyways because it aligned with their purpose of humiliating and embarrassing the Gosselins enough to get the show cancelled?

There are many lessons to be learned from the tragic story of the suicide of Megan Meier. People create identities on the internet all the time, but it seems to me that a line is crossed when that fake persona is used to inflict emotional distress or harass real life people. Even if the real-life people have a television show.

35 comments:

Mom said...

Linda -

Thanks for the link and your insight. Lori Drew was an adult and knew better. Her "knowledge" of the scenario and doing nothing about it, to me, says she didn't care.

Something that I cannot stop thinking about are the G children, especially C & M. You know there are (unfortunately) many other Lori Drew-type parents out there. Can you imagine the parents out there that hate the Gs in general? What do they say about the G family to their children? To parents of other children? Does it make it back to C & M? I hope not, but I can't help thinking it does.

There is no doubt in my mind that the G children love their parents and that J & K love their children. Are they the perfect parents? No. Are they the perfect children? No. If they were, I would be more frightened.

As for PM. Well, she has children. No matter how much she felt the need to create a fake persona, what she did was wrong. Period. Did it cause harm to the G family? I don't know. I hope it didn't. Had the hoax continued, could it have caused harm to the Gs and others? IMO, most definitely, yes.

The amount of time people spend discussing the Gs money, home, college funds, etc., is a bit out of control, to the point of obsession, by what I have seen over at the other blog.

When it gets to that point, I think it's time to step back and really ask yourself, are you doing this for the children or for yourself? Although I believe there are true child advocates and parents out there who care about the well-being of the G children, I whole-heartedly believe the majority of complainers hide behind the platform of child advocacy.

I believe it's way out of control at the other blog and if I were the Gs, I would fear some of the people out there.

I'm interested in reading what everyone else has to say.

nomoredrama said...

The amount of time people spend discussing the Gs money, home, college funds, etc., is a bit out of control, to the point of obsession, by what I have seen over at the other blog.

I totally agree with this statement. Other than being insanely busy, this is part of the reason I've taken a step back from blogging about the Gosselins lately.

Honestly, the more I read about Jon and Kate, the less I like them personally. But whether or not they are nice people is irrelevant, IMO. What they are being accused of is very serious. I've heard others accuse them of tax evasion (LMAO, as if the IRS isn't on to them), child abuse, child exploitation, hit and run, theft (essentially, that they've stolen money from those who are too ignorant to know better) and fraud.

They are portrayed as criminals and haven't even so much as had a trial before they've been convicted. The accusations, for the most part, have little to no evidence. Yet because people think that the Gosselins are mean and rude, they accept these things without question. Those that do question, are labeled as idiots.

I thought it was quite humorous when the Penn Mommy fraud was uncovered that the skeptics demanded what is in essence courtroom ready evidence (and they were given it) yet they willfully accept a blog post written by what could be some guy in a basement, as long as it provides some negative new information about the G's.

I had hoped that those who were around during the PM fiasco would begin to question information but even in light of what has happened, there are those who blindly follow the stories of a website who openly claim that most of what is written conjecture with "some facts."

So, to me, this begs the question: Does any of this have a point? I think, for the most part, the answer to that question is no. But, regardless, I will continue to challenge, question, and point out false information (for or against the Gosselins).

The Gosselins probably are greedy, but are they criminals? Until there is actual evidence to prove that they are...there answer to that question in my mind is "no"

FIONA said...

Absolutely, Lori Drew knew better, and I have to wonder about her mental state.

MYSPACE is a scary piece of technology in the wrong hands, teens and adults.

I forbid my kid from having a MYSPACE and was savvy enough to know how to monitor it. She tried a couple od times and I caught her. Each time she had posted too much personal information. (she paid the price of her consequences too)

I am in agreement that the twin's will most certainly fall victim to people lashing out at their parent's thru them.

Those girl's internet use will need to be guarded heavily.

Florida Mom said...

I remember when this story first came out. I wondered how an adult could be involved in something so horrible. With all the wonderful things the internet has provided, it has also given a lot of troubled minds a "community". When people start spouting hate, and are encouraged by fellow haters, they often become empowered. As I stated before, I had never read a huge amount of posts at GWOP. My thoughts were--they don't like Kate, what's the big deal. (I find her rather irritating myself). They are entitled to their opinions. When I took the time to read more posts, I was appalled at the venom. I have to agree with all that are so bewildered by why these people still watch the show.
People there post about how Jon and Kat should be giving back and helping others. They worry about the welfare of the children. I guess, I would like to know how they (the posters) are giving back. There are so many children and so many wonderful agencies they could be pouring their efforts into. (I love Save the Children). The amount of hate is scary.
I hope they prosecute this sad woman to the fullest extent. Maybe,just maybe, it will make someone on the fence think twice before doing something so reprehensible.
I think it is wonderful that the moderators here have decided to reject anonymous postings. I think when you have to put a name(even a screen name), it might make you more accountable for your words.

Daisy said...

"Did Penn Mommy create a fake persona for the purpose of humiliating and embarrassing the Gosselins? Or was it for the purpose of humiliating and embarrassing posters who practice Christianity?"

I think it's a bit of both. She obviously hates the Gosselins and proved that she would wanted to harm their reputation.

She also believes God doesn't exist and got Christians to pray for her. She even said she went to the church the G's went to.

It will never cease to amaze me that she thinks it's ok to do this.

Saint said...

Excellent post, Linda! Well done. Thank you Nina for posting this and offering discussion on this point. I can't tell you how horrible the Megan Meier story is to me.

It is worrisome how out-of-control some of this Gosselin blog stuff is. I learned a valuable lesson because of the PennMommy fraud, but so many obviously haven't. The nonsense about relatives of Jon's now posting at GWoP is so ridiculous, yet so many commenters believe it. The response of the moderators? Believe what you want; we'll post what we want. To me it's irresponsible, both to the Gosselins and to their readers.

Fiona, my teens can't use MySpace either. So far they've not given me too much trouble about it, beyond a few complaints. Before they leave home though, I'll have to sit down with them and MySpace and have a few discussions about my values and what I fear may harm them, the way we do with movies/TV now. The Megan Meier saga, along with others' experiences will be part of those discussions. Ugh!

Linda said...

The long lost relatives posting about the vow renewal on the other blog make me wonder if no one has learned lesson of PM.

I'll write more later.

Tyra said...

Thanks for this post, Linda. Important topic. The internet is the wild west frontier and people often make their own rules for conduct; it's very empowering to 'shoot from the hip', say what you think in very strong terms. And people can choose to do things they wouldn't dare in 'real life', like creating false identities in this case, and the PM case. But then people act as if there's no responsibility that comes with the (often un-regulated) personal power they get on the net.

It's really a shame (and sometimes a tragedy) that people use their internet power to do all the old mean and petty things, like gossip, spread rumors, and choose targets to pick on.

Guinevere said...

Good post, Linda. I do sometimes wonder how far people will take their hatred of the Gosselins. What is a little scary is the sense I get that some people hate them so much that they've lost all perspective, and feel that the ends justifies the means. So it's okay to call CPS, it's okay to make up stories to whip up hatred...what else becomes okay?

Denny said...

"...humiliating and embarrassing posters who practice Christianity?..."

Is that Freedom of Speech or a Hate Crime?

Saint said...

Is that Freedom of Speech or a Hate Crime?

I think it's freedom of speech, Denny. What do you think?

I do not think PM's hoax amounted to a hate crime, or she'd be heavily fined for the blog she quit "perhaps forever," but only for a month. Her blog is one hoax after another, with her gullible "fans" believing every ridiculous post. For example, her children have the most incompetent teachers, yet she keeps on sending them to that school...the better to highlight their genius against their teachers' well-meaning ignorance. How convenient. She is not shy about blogging about her remarkable charity of thought and deed to her fans, prompting glowing praise for her virtuous motherhood, trashing other mothers along the way. It is pretty obvious to me what prompted her lies about Kate Gosselin. Kate's just too photogenic, too thin, too happily married, too much on display for the very thing PM wishes to be acknowledge for...motherhood. Damn that Kate Gosselin and her multi-cultural Christian family!

GDNNOP exposed her for the fraud she is, far too gently for my tastes, though. How do the moderators here keep from strapping on their Internet flamethrowers and posting all that personal information they supposedly have posted on her? Thankfully, cooler heads than mine have their fingers on the "publish this post" button. PM's hardly the tolerant and reasoned scientist/mother that her "real world" blog portrays. Follow her screen names...on TWoP alone, and you'll need a shower after reading her thoughts on another TV mother. She's really, really nasty.

Gee, I hope that qualifies for free speech, and not a hate crime.

Daisy said...

Denny,

The "crime" was the means used to get to the "...humiliating and embarrassing posters who practice Christianity?..."

Lying and saying you know a family, volunteered for them and made up stories about things that happened in their home that just weren't true.

How is freedom of speech ok when it involves spreading lies and rumors?

Linda said...

You bring up an important caveat in the whole Freedom of Speech issue and that is the intentional infliction of emotional distress and panic.

I no more think that "falsely yelling fire in a crowded theatre" should be protected free speech than I think that what PennMommy or Lori Drew did should be protected either.

Anya said...

Linda, thanks for the challenging and intellectually stimulating post.

"Did Penn Mommy create a fake persona for the purpose of humiliating and embarrassing the Gosselins? Or was it for the purpose of humiliating and embarrassing posters who practice Christianity?"

I think this is another situation where we can only speculate. I do firmly believe this woman THRIVES on attention - any kind of attention. What she writes about and the impact it has almost seems secondary to me.

"Did the moderators from GwoP and Aunt Jodi's sister know the information that Penn Mommy was offering was false and support it anyways because it aligned with their purpose of humiliating and embarrassing the Gosselins enough to get the show cancelled?"

Not a Julie fan, but I don't think Julie suspected a thing until the very end of this sad spectacle. I wish she had learned something from the whole affair, but I am not sure she did. As for GWoP, it's possible one or more moderators were in on it. I can't say for sure. What I can say is I don't believe GWoP has been honest or judicious in how they have chosen to run their site and what they have allowed to be posted. They assisted PM in perpetrating her fraud. She never would have gotten where she did without them.

Lizabeth said...

Wow... phenomenal post, Linda. Thank you so much for the reminder that we all need to not only watch who we trust, but ensure our words are trustworthy as well. I know we've all talked before about how its easy for things to snowball out of proportion and one simple off handed "snarky" comment can then become huge fodder for... say... national news rag magazines. I am definitely on board with whatever we here at GDNNOP can do to lessen the amount of crud out there about Jon and Kate. Thank you to the mods for allowing open forums but also being willing many times to logically set the record straight with proven facts.

Nina Bell said...

It appears that for some people it is easy to invent an entire persona on the internet because of the ease of deceiving those you will never meet in person. It appears that this phenomenon is more common than we think. In fact, there is a song about it written and sung by Country singer Brad Paisley called “Online.” It is a satire of the online world, specifically My Space. The video which is pretty funny and stars Jason Alexander and William Shatner was selected Video of the Year in the 2007 CMA awards. It is about a “geek” who in real life is overweight and 5’ 3” and works at the local pizza parlor. On MY Space, he is 6’ 5”, lives in Malibu and models for Calvin Klein and GQ.

I guess for the most part, these people are usually not dangerous. People usually find themselves feeling angry, disappointed and foolish when they find out they have been deceived. People should not feel this way. These people have had much practice honing their skills at convincing people to believe that which is not true. I understand Penn Mommy had a great deal of practice.


I will have to say that I was somewhat surprised at the reaction of some bloggers. They appeared more upset with us for posting our findings, than at Penn Mommy herself. Of course, those particular bloggers were not regulars on this site but frequented sites that were not particularly fond of this site to begin with. Go figure.

Lori Drew crossed the line. Penn Mommy crossed the line. She did harm individuals. She made wild accusations against a family. She caused people great anguish and to shed tears. I read the comments on other blogs. Someone also emailed me who is not a fan on this site and said her family was trying to figure out where they could cut corners so they could contribute to Penn Mommy’s family.

The owners and moderators of all of these Gosselin blogs (myself included) can not let our need to be right, our need to drive traffic to our blogs and/or our need to destroy the Gosselins interfere with our judgment of how to be fair and what to publish and post when running these blogs.

Tyra said...

Quote:
What I can say is I don't believe GWoP has been honest or judicious in how they have chosen to run their site and what they have allowed to be posted. They assisted PM in perpetrating her fraud. She never would have gotten where she did without them.

GWoP wants the extra traffic and buzz that supposed real-life accounts bring to them, but they don't want the responsibility that accompanies that. Their bs disclaimer of 'believe what you want' that accompanied the Hawaii relatives' postings is an offensive illustration of that.

I keep waiting for more people on the internet to take individual responsibility for examining what they're presented with. Is it fact, or just opinion? Is it just malicious gossip? Is it totally fake? A lot of the Gosselin-related chatter personally offends me because of the lax thinking behind it.

Awareness of internet fraud should be a component in kids' education, as part of teaching them critical thinking skills. I would hope for a time when no poster would even bother to make unverifiable claims on the internet, because nobody would believe them, and they'd be hooted at for even trying it. It seems like GWoP is there to remind me that's expecting too much.

Linda said...

Tyra wrote:

GWoP wants the extra traffic and buzz that supposed real-life accounts bring to them, but they don't want the responsibility that accompanies that.
====================

And GwoP /PennMommy used the artificial banner of child advocacy and uncorroborated insider information to generate that extra traffic.

Gee. That sounds alot like Julie's definition of exploitation?

Check it out here :

http://truthbreedshatred.blogspot.com/2008/10/what-is-exploitation.html

Come to think of it, it seems like one could argue that even Julie has exploited the kids to further her agenda against Kate.

Lori Drew exploited the vulnerabilities of Megan Meier. I have the feeling that even if she isn't found guilty that she will pay a heavy price.

Nina Bell said...

Linda

Lori Drew will pay a heavy price but Penn Mommy will get a pass. Life is not fair. Lori Drew should pay a heavier price but who really knows where Penn Mommy was headed or what damage she might have actually done. Especially encouraged by others because she added fuel to their cause.

nomoredrama said...

Did you guys here the latest tragedy? A teenage boy killed himself online, via webcam while thousands watched and did nothing. Some even egged him on. I know this isn't necessarily Gosselin related but it certainly gives one pause about what goes on.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/11/21/webcam.suicide/?iref=mpstoryview

Nina Bell said...

Thanks for the link. I read the article and can't really think of much to say other than how sorry I feel for that parent. This whole cyberspace world has gotten out of control. If someone wants to commit suicide, they will find the means regardless of who is watching. What is unbelievable is the people that watched and did not notify anyone.

Anya said...

NMD, I saw that story too and thought of our discussion here.

Some of the reactions (and lack of reactions) seem to be in line with what I have seen in the Gosselin blogging world. People just totally disengaged and not cognizant that they are writing about *real* people - a real family. In thinking about it, Lori Drew's actions do seem that much more heinous due to the fact that she had a real-life connection to Megan.

For whatever reason, a sense of human connection and basic decency often seem to go out the door in chatrooms and/or reality t.v. forums. Sad and strange...

Linda said...

Anya,

You hit the nail on the head. They feign indignation that that the posts submitted by their nameless/faceless identities on the internet are being critiqued while they slam real live people including children.

truthcomesout said...

Nina Bell said...
This whole cyberspace world has gotten out of control. If someone wants to commit suicide, they will find the means regardless of who is watching. What is unbelievable is the people that watched and did not notify anyone.
___________________________________

I was so saddened by this story. What shocked me the most is what you said Nina about people watching and not notifying anyone. How could ANYONE do that? Stopping him in time may have led to the type of intervention he needed to move past whatever caused him to think he wanted to take his own life.

I guess that's why I became so interested in the J+K show. I saw things with regard to Kate and then the kids that I questioned and when I searched out info on them I realized there were things that seemed not quite right. I'm glad to see people stepping up and trying to bring about changes by way of enacting child labor laws, etc. I would never want to see something happen with one of those kids b/c no one cared or tried to make a difference for them.

michelle said...

I do think this person- a grown woman- has blood on her hands. She should have known better than to do such a juvenile(sp) prank. There should definately(sp) be consequences to Lori Drew for her actions. She really should feel ashamed of herself.

She knew she was dealing with a vulnerable teenager when pretending to be a boy of the same age.

My prayers are with the girl who took her life and with her parents.

Linda said...

Here is the link to the foundation that the family started in Megan's name . . .

http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/

Sadly, the parents of Megan Meier are getting divorced. Another tragic legacy to this story.

Linda said...

BTW - the case has gone to the jury today.

Nina Bell said...

Thanks Linda,

Keep us posted, I am interested in the how this comes out.

merryway said...

In the blog written by the attendee of a Jon & Kate talk, the writer has gone through and written the word spam by all the comments that were sent by the same person using different names. Very interesting to see how many there were.

http://high-five.net/?p=421

Lizabeth said...

merryway, thank you for that info! I just checked it out-- I am seriously curious where that person who spammed the comments is located... especially if its in Bakersfield...

Tyra said...

Thank you for posting that link, Merryway. Interesting,and pathetic, all at once. How funny that the repeater isn't satisfied with presenting his/her own opinion, and they have to have a 'crowd' around them.

merryway said...

You're welcome. It's strange isn't it? It made me wonder how many GWOPers there really are.

Nina Bell said...

Merryway,

Yes I saw that also. Something we always suspected. That there is probably 4 or 5 people that are posting 90 percents of the comments on all of these blogs that posts articles on the Gosselins. The same thing appears to be happening on the latest article that Gwop has a link to. Another thing I found interesting today is the petition to stop the show. I think there was a little over 500 people that signed it since June. You would think there would be thousands since GWoP's website gets so many visits.

Nina Bell said...

Link to an article in People.com to the outcome of the trial.

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20243080,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines

merryway said...

I didn't know there was a petition anymore. With all the rantings, the blurb on CNN and the NE articles, I would have expected many more signatures, especially since June. That's quite revealing.

Some of them are scary and some remind me of the character Dale from King of the Hill.