Anonymity and Cyber-Bullies

anonymity1a.jpgOver at Wired’s Threat Level blog, Kim Zetter discusses a story of cyber-bullying that led to a suicide and a newspaper’s decision to not reveal the identities of the responsible parties:

On Tuesday the St. Charles Journal in Missouri published a sad story about cyberbullying that drove a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier to commit suicide last year. Meier had been harangued by one of her MySpace friends named “Josh Evans” who sent her a barrage of hateful comments that sent her over the edge.

It turns out that Evans was a pseudonym created by two adults — one of whom knew the Meier family very well. The St. Charles Journal decided to protect the privacy of the two adults and declined to name them in the story. That didn’t sit well with incensed readers, who tracked down what they say is the identity of one of the adults and posted it online. Now the paper is being criticized for giving the adults anonymity.

Zetter continues:

The St. Charles Journal wrote in the story that it decided not to name the woman and the other adult involved in the incident out of concern for the woman’s own teenage daughter. The two adults haven’t been charged with any crime.

But readers of various blogs that posted the story were furious with the paper’s decision. By matching certain details in the article with property records, they found the name and address of a woman who they believe created the Josh Evans persona, and published her details online.

The story in the St. Charles Journal is here.

Hat tip: Susan Cartier Liebel

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Belle Lettre says:

    That is so terribly sad. I understand the instinct for public shaming though. How do you feel about it?

  2. Despite how despicably these adults acted, I don’t think that shaming is the answer. Given the facts of this case, it is likely to spark attempts at vigilante justice. Using the civil and/or criminal justice system to deal with this case would be the most appropriate course of action. Having people take the law into their own hands is typically not a recipe that produces anything good.