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Missouri passes cyber-bullying bill

May 17, 2008|From the Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Responding to the suicide of a Missouri teenager who was teased over the Internet, state lawmakers Friday gave final approval to a bill making cyber-harassment illegal.

The measure updates state laws to keep pace with technology by removing the requirement that the communication be written or over the telephone. Supporters say the bill will cover harassment from computers, text messages and other electronic devices.

The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Matt Blunt for his signature. He issued a statement praising lawmakers:

"Social networking sites and technology have opened a new door for criminals and bullies to prey on their victims. These protections ensure that our laws now have the protections and penalties needed to safeguard Missourians from Internet harassment."

Many of the bill's provisions came from a gubernatorial task force that studied Internet harassment after reports last fall on details of Megan Meier's suicide. Police say Megan, 13, hanged herself in 2006 after being deceived on MySpace.

A neighborhood mother, along with the mother's 18-year-old employee and 13-year-old daughter, are accused of creating a fake profile of an attractive teenage boy to determine what Megan was saying about the daughter online.

The mother, Lori Drew, 49, was indicted Thursday by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles on charges of conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress. An attorney for Drew said a legal challenge was planned.

Missouri police didn't file charges in part because there was no applicable state law.

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