Federal cyberbullying bill proposed…

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For those of you who haven’t heard yet, a federal law has been proposed that defines “cyberbullying” and specifies penalties (in the form of fines and up to two years imprisonment) for violators. The bill is formally called the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act (HR 6123), and was introduced jointly by Representatives from Missouri and California. We support the creation of well-informed and thought-out laws that are part of a comprehensive plan to address cyberbullying, and we applaud the fact that politicians are increasingly recognizing and formally responding to the problem of online aggression. However, this specific law is just not going to work. The text of the bill reads:

Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. (§ 881)

The bill’s wording seems too broad, and its overbreadth makes me believe that it would be found unconstitutional. IANAL, but intent to cause “substantial emotional distress” through “severe” and “hostile” electronic behaviors will be difficult to prove, especially when it is online. I think courts would (and do) have an easier time identifying and agreeing upon the same behavior when demonstrated offline, in the real world.

On a final note, I like the fact that “cyberbullying” is spelled as one word in the bill.

4 Comments

  1. It would make sense if the wording was "cyberbullying will be treated no different from terrorism" and be done with it, listing the charge as the same class as terrorism itself.

    people commiting cyberbullying are blatantly immature and must be discaplined for it. death threats, linking pages without permission of the page's user, gloating about sexual conquests the victim has failed to achive, simply put this cannot go unpunished.

    those commiting to cyberbullying belive they have every right to harrass others, when the harsh reality is they dont. Government hackers will find themselves working overtime and getting more pay if they're called in to identify the bully accused.

    I'd love to see the faces of these cyber bullies and be given the first stop at them, make cyberbullies be denied their human rights, forced to have their pants pulled down and spanked with a paddle every morning, with the people throwing rotting food and rocks at the criminals.

    bullying deserves only the most humiliating of punishments. force bullies to learn they have no right harrassing others the way they do.

  2. http://www.pioneerlocal.com/niles/news/3024284,ni
    This article is about a Sheriff in Chicago that spoke to 150 7th graders about the dangers of cyber bullying and sexting. I was originally going to place this article in the sexting section but since it dealt with an informative lecture from a Sheriff, I thought I’d place it in the legal issues of cyber bullying.

    Sheriff Dart stated, “Under the new law any minor under the age of 17 who transmits nude or sexually explicit materials via an electronic device can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, and would be subject to up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. A minor who requests that another minor send a "sext" to them could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. But the stiffest penalty could affect minors who post a nude or explicit photo that was sent to them on the Internet. The law states that if the minor who posts the image leaves it online for at least 24 hours with the intent of injuring another's reputation by causing emotional distress, the offender can be charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries a prison sentence of one to three years.”

    Along with the discussion on the legalities of participating in cyber bullying and sexting, Sheriff Dart also talked about social networking safety and privacy issues. He urged the students not to post private information anywhere concerning the sports team you play or even the name of your school. He ended his presentation with a lecture on cyber bullying and what to do if you were a victim of it. He encouraged any students that were victims of cyber bullying to tell an adult.

  3. With the advent of up and coming cyber-bullying laws, true scabs on the [email protected]$ of society like mugshots.com are cruisin for a bruisin’. People like this are truly deviant and evil and serve no purpose other than to extort money from folks. The sooner they are off the net the better life will be. People deserve a better life than to be subjected to this form of extortion. I wonder how clean their closet is?

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