It's in the New York Times and all over the internet. It happened last year but the names of the harassers have only recently been released. A woman in her forties named Lori Drew, with the assistance of an employee in her advertising firm, created a fake Myspace profile of a hot teenage boy, for the sole purpose of befriending and then hurting a seriously depressed 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier. Megan had been friends with Drew's daughter and the friendship had broken up. Lori Drew blamed Megan.
"Josh Evans" was Megan's online boyfriend for a period of weeks. He then told her that he heard she wasn't nice to her friends and he didn't like her anymore. "He" (and some real kids who joined in) called Megan names on Myspace and then Josh wished her a "shitty life" and said the world would be better off without her. Megan Meier hanged herself 20 minutes after reading "Josh's" last message.
The Drews and the Meiers had been friends and neighbors for years and Lori Drew did not disclose what she had done to the Drews' daughter in the wake of her death. The Meier and Drew families continued to socialize and the Meiers stored a foosball table that the Drews were giving their children for Christmas, so the kids wouldn't see it. Another neighbor, whose daughter had been in on the hoax, disclosed to the Meiers in the presence of their grief counselor that Josh Evans was really Lori Drew. The Meiers destroyed the foosball table and left it, in pieces on the Drew's lawn, leading Lori Drew to call the police to report the vandalism(!). In the course of giving her statement to the police, Lori Drew admitted that she had - in the person of Josh Evans - sent insulting messages to Megan Meier but said that she didn't feel too guilty because Megan was on anti-depressants and had tried to kill herself earlier.
Lori Drew committed no crime and have not been arrested, but oh how cruel! How could anyone think that was an okay thing to do to a thirteen-year-old child? Of course she didn't kill her and she couldn't have known that Megan would commit suicide. Clearly there was much more wrong than just this event for a child to take her life. But it was obviously - and predictably - agonizing to this girl to be treated like that. If it were another kid doing it, I'd think "she doesn't know any better, she didn't realize the effect of her words" but this is a grown woman. And to think that a history of depression in her victim makes it okay, lessens her responsibility? It's beyond my comprehension.
What does it say about the internet and anonymity? We don't need this cautionary story to know that there are people who misrepresent themselves online. Those of us who've been around a while have our war stories we can tell. A thirteen-year-old girl faced with a cute boy who likes her doesn't have our resources.
The Drews are now pariahs in the neighborhood and are in fear of violence against them. There have been a number of acts of vandalism at their house. The Meiers have separated and are getting a divorce. Megan Meier's father stayed in the house while her mother moved out, and their surviving daughter splits her time between them.