A case that could have wide-ranging effects on internet anonymity is currently under way in Los Angeles.

Lori Drew, 49, allegedly took part in setting up an account on MySpace under the name Josh Evans, then approached her 13-year old next door neighbour Megan Meiers under the pseudonym and began talking online.

Drew then pretended that her character was moving away, having begun to exchange flirtatious emails.

Darker

The messages then began to take on a more sinister tone, including telling Meiers that "the world would be a better place without you".

The court was told that Meiers then hanged herself within an hour of receiving this particular message.

However, prosecutors struggled to find a law that applied to the case in the defendant's home state of Missouri.

The route they took was to charge her in California, the location of the MySpace servers, stating that she had broken the rules of the website by posting under a fake name and therefore could be charged on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984.

However, these laws were brought into effect to target hackers who try to seize control of computers to gain valuable information, rather than simply posting under a fake name, which is something that millions do online.

If the prosecution succeeds, many who use a pseudonym harmlessly could be forced to reveal their names on the internet.