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Politicians and the Cyber-Bully Pulpit

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the can't-say-that-with-your-thumbs dept.

The Internet 392

Regular Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton has cyber-bullying on his mind; that and the laws proposed to deal with it. His article begins: "The authors of most of the recently proposed anti-cyberbullying laws have been invoking the tragic case of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2006 after being harassed online by an adult neighbor posing as a cute 16-year-old boy. Unlike the bluster of politicians grandstanding to outlaw swearing on the Internet, the outrage and frustration of lawmakers in this case is at least understandable, especially after the FBI announced that the family that created the phony profile and caused Megan's suicide could not be charged with any crime. But the focus on Megan's case raises two questions: (a) whether it is fair to invoke Megan in the name of passing the laws, and (b) whether the laws are a good idea in general." Read more below.
For once, the invoking of the teenage victim of online stalking is probably not completely cynical. Sometimes, it is. In 2002, after 13-year-old cheerleader Christina Long was apparently killed by someone she met online, politicians purported to honor her memory by passing the "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act" to create the domain space exclusively for content aimed at children 12 and under. Nobody with an ounce of sense could have truly believed that the existence a domain would have prevented Christina Long's death (and certainly not the people who knew the facts of her case, since the police found that she had been actively looking for older sex partners online). In Megan Meier's case, at least the proposed laws are on-topic, and the authors probably really believe they will help. But will they?

Consider two laws proposed by state senators in Megan's home state of Missouri. Senate Bill 762, introduced by Sen. Yvonne Wilson, would require schools to adopt anti-cyberbullying policies. Sen. Scott Rupp has introduced Senate Bill 818, which would prohibit "cyber harassment" defined as conduct which "serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person", with increased penalties if committed by an adult over 21 against a minor under 17. Obviously the Wilson bill would not have applied in the Meier case, since the harassment was not committed by a real school student, but the bill could have still been inspired by an attempt to prevent future incidents caused by real students. The Rupp bill could apply to any teen-on-teen or even adult-on-adult harassment. So what actual effect would they have?

The Wilson bill punts the question by simply requiring school districts to set up anti-cyberbullying policies, but not specifying what would be prohibited or what the consequences would be. This is not to say that the state legislature should have micro-managed what school districts should prohibit, but there's no way to find fault with a bill that leaves the decisions up to someone else. However, any policy that attempts to regulate off-campus conduct would run into constitutional problems, as most cyber-bullying occurs outside of school (since Facebook and MySpace remain blocked to most students).

That leaves the Rupp bill, which is far more detailed, but still less than specific as far as people being able to read it and know in advance what kind of conduct is prohibited. Would it really criminalize any messages sent between teenagers that led to hurt feelings? The bill says that it does not apply to "constitutionally protected activity", falling into the general category of bills that say "This bill prohibits XYZ except that anything protected by the First Amendment isn't prohibited", supposedly so that people can't say the bill violates the First Amendment, but which really means that nobody knows what's allowed. The bill helpfully explains that "such constitutionally protected activity includes picketing or other organized protests", but since most cyberbullying does not take the form of tormentors sending their targets pictures of picket signs reading "ERIC IS GAY", this still doesn't help to determine what is permitted.

But there's something much more worrisome here. The conduct prohibited in the bill doesn't depend entirely on the message itself; it is restricted to content "that actually causes substantial emotional distress". Presumably this seemed like a good way to target the kinds of messages that caused Megan Meier to kill herself, without also outlawing all the other thousands of "You suck and I don't want to be your friend any more" sent between teenagers every day. But consider from the point of view of a message's recipient: At some point in the future, a victim of cyberbullying might know that other cases of cyberbullying have been prosecuted, but only in cases where they caused the victim "substantial emotional distress". So the law says to the victim: You can strike back against your tormentors, you can ruin their lives and let the world know what they did to you, but only if you harm yourself to prove they really hurt you.

And that's the basic Catch-22 of cyberbullying legislation: You can't prohibit meanness that causes someone to harm themselves, without also prohibiting the basic meanness that many teenagers put up with every day — unless you make the crime contingent on the victim actually harming themselves, in which case you've created hugely perverse incentives for them to do so.

I admit I don't have an easy answer either. The National Crime Prevention Center lists tips for teens to deal with cyberbulling: "(1) Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages; (2) Tell friends to stop cyberbullying; (3) Block communication with cyberbullies; (4) Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult." Sorry, I'm sure they don't mean well, but if you're a teen and your problem is people saying hurtful things about you online to your friends, this is so unhelpful as to probably leave the victim feeling worse. 1 through 3 don't even address the problem, and "report it to an adult"? Most cyberbullying is not illegal.

So I would take the efforts that schools put into preventing cyberbullying — which may not deter the worst bullies, and which could be unconstitutional as applied to off-campus activity anyway — and reinvest them into teaching kids to deal with it: the self-esteem building programs which are much derided as political correctness run amok, but which can be judged a success if they help build resistance to bullying. Above all, put as much emphasis on tracking the results of esteem building programs, as on tracking the results of regular academic programs, so that statistics can be used to determine after the fact what kinds of programs are working best, rather than going in with preconceived notions. Learning how to deal with catty bitches ought to be treated as at least as important as learning the date when the Treaty of Ghent was signed. Out in the real world, there are still catty bitches, but nobody ever asks you about the Treaty of Ghent.

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DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (3, Insightful)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506432)

I feel sorry for the girl, but ultimately it was HER DECISION to commit suicide. You can't blame somebody else for your own actions.... there are a lot of assholes & bullies out there, and learning to deal with them is a part of life.

If the girl has been wiser, she could have
(a) mark the hate mail as "spam" so they'd go straight to trash
(b) ask her parents for help, if she didn't know how to do that

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (4, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506562)

I am pretty sure, that the current standing is that we (as a society) do not allow minors to make all decisions about their lives and do subscribe to the idea that they deserve a higher degree of protection than adults do. Perhaps a more approriate measure would be not to punish adults acting as adults on the Internet, but holding parents responsible for their children's Internet habits. Surely we would hold a parent who gets cocaine for their child to be more than just a drug dealer. Why should we not adopt the position that (at least monitoring) what children view on the Internet is their parents responsibility? Why shouldn't we say that letting children use Internet unsupervised is plain reckless?

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (2, Insightful)

Nyall (646782) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507018)

Watching your children 100% of the time is not feasible. Not that I have any, but If an adult harasses a child of mine yeah I'm going to try to sick whatever law I can on them.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506686)

I live a couple of miles from where this happened, and it was a really big deal, but most people weren't screaming for new laws; most people's first reaction feelings wise was to get vigilante justice on the woman who did this (of which a little happened, but nothing severe). As far as a 13 year old being "wise", don't be stupid. She was emotionally stable and on medication. If anything, her parents should have been more involved in what she was doing. I can't really see how they couldn't have noticed anything. Parents, talk to your kids!

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (5, Insightful)

rossz (67331) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506698)

Except the problem is:

1. Thirteen year old girls are usually emotional basket cases.
2. Social standing is EVERYTHING and teenage girls can be the most evil little bitches around because of how they treat each other. An adult playing this game is inexcusable (even if it doesn't result in a suicide).
3. Teenagers rarely ask their parents for help with "real" problems (as opposed to non-problems like needing a ride to the mall).
4. Teenagers are in the process of learning how to deal with problems. Normally you (as a parent) let them make mistakes so they'll learn. Occasionally you must intervene if the problem gets too big. That assumes you even know about the problem. Teenagers are pretty damn good at hiding things from their parents. The bigger the problem, the more effort they'll put into hiding it.

Since there is no crime that the bitch of a woman can be charged with, the logical response is social shunning. The entire community refuses to have anything to do with her - including businesses! Imagine her going to the grocery store and the manager telling her they don't want her business. Imagine her going to some school function and every parent and every teacher turns their back on her. It won't bring back the dead girl, but it would get rid of the woman since she'd have to move. It would also send a strong message to everyone else in their community that some things are just not acceptable.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506770)

In Britain, they'd probably serve her with an ASBO...but legislating these things is never really a good idea.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (1)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506920)

I've wondered about the ASBO thing.

I first learned of the term a few months ago on ASBO Jesus [] (absolutely freaking hilarious... good job by the author.) What exactly is the government's role in deciding who's anti-social and who isn't over there?

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (5, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507090)

Since there is no crime that the bitch of a woman can be charged with
Here's what I don't get. Let me quote ABC News here:

Megan Meier's parents say she committed suicide after a hoax by a couple who lived down the street posed online as a "cute boy." When "cute boy" apparently turned on Megan, saying he heard she was "cruel" to her friends, she hanged herself.
So, someone pulled a prank. I'm sure pranks like this happen thousands of times a day all across the country. One statistical outlier killed herself as a result of someone saying they didn't like her. Let's take the prank out of this. She met a boy online who essentially dumped her online. Ignore that it wasn't real because she didn't know that it wasn't. Her response to being dumped was to KILL HERSELF. I assure you that the boy was not to blame. She behaved in a seriously illogical manner to what is going to be a typical situation for just about everyone at some point in their lives (a messy breakup). Now, given that it was a hoax, I can see saying that the people perpetrating it should certainly feel badly. After all, they didn't have to put her in that situation. However, there's no way for them to have known that putting her in a situation that's all too common would have resulted in this tragic outcome. There's no intent to cause harm. There's no felony murder (the crime of an accidental death occurring as a result of the commission of a felony). There's no crime, and frankly I don't see why there should be.

You call these people some pretty harsh names here on Slashdot. If they killed themselves as a result, what do you think we should do to you...?

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (4, Interesting)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506778)

I am all for personal responsibility, but this case, and cases like it, I feel, deserve a little bit of slack given the extenuating circumstances.

1.) She was 13. I know now it's easy for adults, and extremely cynical teenagers, to say "Well, why didn't she just ignore it?" Well, in the case, the 'boy' spent months talking to her, gaining trust and personal information, before beginning to slam her and threaten her, and when you're 13 years old, the internets ARE serious business. You can't seriously be expected to just be able to brush off someone threatening to spread horrible lies about you in the school setting, where you will spend the next several years sandwiched between social layers.

2.) The parents did this because of a spat their daughter was having with Megan. Screw protecting kids online from bullying, how about we find a way to weed sociopaths like this out of the genetic pool, and certainly prevent them from having kids. What the hell is the other girl going to be like when she grows up? "I had an argument with a friend when I was 13, so my parents arranged for her to die. They didn't go to jail for that, so I guess it's ok!"

I know how much crap I ended up in in high school when I spread a TRUE story about someone online (I wasn't spreading it maliciously, it was just conversational) and in 'retaliation', the people involved started spreading some very creative lies about me. Maybe instead of passing laws to protect children from the horrors of assholes, we should be educating them at a PARENTAL LEVEL about the internet, "serious business", and the ability of "Ignore" features on most messaging software.

But that's just me.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (0, Flamebait)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506908)

how about we find a way to weed sociopaths like this out of the genetic pool, and certainly prevent them from having kids
We could put them all into the same place, you know, have these camps where we send them to concentrate them into one area. That would do it, right?

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (1)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506966)

Nice oblique reference to the Holocaust... I will certainly lend your arguments more credibility in the future because of this.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22507026)

We need a (-1, Godwin) moderation.

Perspective (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507110)

I know it's generally not good to reply to your own comment, but I thought I'd add a little perspective to my comment. The GP seems to be calling for some form of eugenics, which is ridiculous. If you run the numbers, you find that it'll take multiple generations to effect even a small impact on the gene pool; it's an endeavor that doesn't have a good payoff compared to the loss in human life and the effort put into it. In addition, there are environmental and cultural factors to consider that could be changed without stopping reproduction. Also, we've got to remember that eugenics was one of the primary justifications for the holocaust; I know about Godwin's law, but dammit, eugenics is one of the places that Nazi Germany should be remembered.

Feel free to mod me down now.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506818)

If the girl has been wiser,
I sincerely hope you never have a child with a mental illness.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506824)

The girl in question was 13 years old, not a full grown woman. At that age, girls tend to be particularly vulnerable to harassment, and the neighbor made a concerted effort to harass the girl. There is simply no escaping this: it was wrong. Ultimately, the problem lied with the neighbor, who harassed a teenager until she committed suicide.

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507016)

It wasn't just hate mail; it was far more perverse than that. They created a fake persona (of a cute boy) who pretended to be interested in her. They then cultivated an emotionally intimate relationship, before having the "boy" turn around and proceed to actively attack her sense of self worth. Would you really send to the spam box mail from someone who was your significant other yesterday, or would you read it even if they had started calling you names for no reason in the last email? I agree it was her decision, but the other people involved certainly bear some responsibility. The situation was nowhere near as simple as it seems you'd like it to be. I doubt that new laws are the right answer, but neither is "ignore it and stop whining."

Re:DON'T BLAME OTHERS for your own acts (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507086)

Bullying leads to depression.. When you're really (clinically) depressed, however wise you may have been at the start, getting off the big merry go round seems like a very inviting choice.
Really, I think the abusers in this case should certainly be hit by the child abuse laws at the very minimum, plus stalking laws..

A new law though? I'm not so sure it would be necessary.. Just use the existing ones out there. New laws won't actually fix anything though. You'll just end up with more criminals. The only way to weed it out is to make it socially unacceptable to behave the way the bullies did.. At the moment, it's just fine to yell and scream, and put people down, throw emotional abuse at them, and generally make them miserable (c.f. Jerry Springer et. al). While it persists in being a form of entertainment, there'll still be loads of people that persist in behaving that way, and calling it 'just for fun', or 'a bit of a laugh'.

Shift the message to "You find that funny, and we'll all consider you cat-lady strange", then we may see the behavior change. Creating a law is merely trying to cap the symptom, rather than address the cause. Recourse to law really isn't going to help.

Enough with laws already! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506438)

The inability/unwillingness to stand up for yourself does not necessitate a new law.

Re:Enough with laws already! (5, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506618)

Actually, that's precisely what laws are for -- to protect the weak. The strong don't need protection. That's what the word "strong" means.

Re:Enough with laws already! (3, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506650)

They shouldn't be a crutch to avoid what you should be doing yourself.

Re:Enough with laws already! (2, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506906)

Civil society exists only because institutions have been created to fight violence on behalf of most people. Protecting oneself against a violent act is a measure of last resort. Being protected from it is why we surrender freedoms to a government established (among other things) for the purposes of "insuring domestic Tranquility" and "providing for the common defence". So no, the assumption is not that most people will deal with violent outbursts on their own. The assumption is that the government will take steps to protect them. Of course, the 2nd ammendment insures that people can still protect themselves when that fails. If you don't think we need a government at all and wish to descend into anarchy, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. I know that the idea of anarchy being a better system than a system of states has been floating on the Internet lately. I don't know if that's where you are comming from. If it is, I don't care to regurgatate these debates (ragardless of the pros and cons of both positions). If it's not, then I'll insist that civility can only come from a government body preventing most violent acts.

Re:Enough with laws already! (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506988)

SO every clinically depressed thirteen year old girl on medication should be standing up for herself? Against an adult who took a month to gain her trust and then viciously turned on her? I agree that a law would server no purpose here, but I also think that we as a society need to protect the weak. Not everyone has the capacity to stand up for themselves in all circumstances. That is one of the reasons people joined together into societies in the first place, to protect each other and be protected against threats that can't be handled alone.

Saying that this thirteen year old girl should have been protecting herself is just cruel.

Of course it won't work (2, Insightful)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506442)

Just think of this scenario:

You begin a conversation with someone, and all of a sudden you start talking politics. The other person completely disagrees with you and decides to completely slam you, saying you are ignorant, and that you should kill yourself.

BOOM, you have a case! You take that person to court and clean up because they say you are a worthless human being. And guess what, they'd probably right!

Re:Of course it won't work (2, Funny)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506566)

Hrm. You'd be outlawing trolling?

As if that would ever work.

Re:Of course it won't work (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506764)

Hrm. You'd be outlawing trolling?

As if that would ever work.

It would and quite easily. The degree of control that website operators and ISP have over who uses the connection and what they can do with it is actually much greater than that of phone companies. It just so happens that most website operators and ISP don't bother to excercise the full potential of their control because they don't see the need for it. But requiring them to do so by law (while it would have chilling effects on free speech) would make it almost immediately so. The wild west was only wild because noone was there to make it otherwise. And the Internet is free and anonymous because those who can have not yet chosen to make it otherwise. If the opposite choice is ever made, it will be made restricted, controlled and regulated almost at a whim. Such control will be easily automated, so there will be no getting around it for most people (ie, all people but the ones who dedicate their lives to circumventing such control). My point is that, I would not dismiss this law with such swagger. Of course, the politicians don't care about a few children comitting suicides. Statistically that will happen anyway and all politicians know it. What this gives them is a proof-of-concept infrastructure to regulate expression on the Internet. And anyone who spends their life trying to acquire power can be assumed to want more power.

Re:Of course it won't work (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506864)

BOOM, you have a case!
You can't get blood from a stone! Ha-ha! ;D

Re:Of course it won't work (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22507078)

Actually, you would probably be laughed out of court and possibly even charged with bringing a frivolous law suit. The people who modded you insightful are fools.

I smell business opportunity! (5, Funny)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506458)

I'm thinking about opening up a service that takes electronic messages, prints them out, and hand delivers them to a reciplient's address. Fortunately paper is still protected by the 1st Amendment and as long as everything printed within is true, it's generally not unlawful (minus death threats, etc.). How about this slogan:

Want to hurt someone's feelings? Do it on Paper(tm)!

Re:I smell business opportunity! (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506488)

Only if the paper self destructs after reading the message

Re:I smell business opportunity! (1, Redundant)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506576)

And have on the title of the paper in big bold letters.


Unlike the libel laws, opinions are NOT libel.

I could say "It's my opinion you are a slanderous, murderous, paedophilic, homosexual who thought-raped my daughter last night in bed."

Perfectly legal. Heh.

Bad shit is like: "You are an arsonist." Arson is a crime. Are they guilty of said crime in a jury? If not, that's libel/slander. Dont do that.

Fine line. (3, Interesting)

Major League Gamer (1222016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506470)

On one hand we want to create a way to prevent things such as this suicide from happening. On the other we shouldn't take away any freedoms in the process. I don't however see how making a law of any kind pertaining to what is said/typed/exclaimed over the internet will be able to do both of these things.

My money would be on better education and awareness.

Re:Fine line. (3, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506738)

A girl committing suicide because of something she thinks a "cute boy" boy says to her is not a symptom of communication on the internet being harmful, it's the symptom of a girl that needed help. You can ban all the speech you want, but that's not the real problem. People unable to cope with the insensitivity and general rudeness of others is a problem. We should be moving toward a society were free speech is just the natural order because people are able to deal with trolls and jerks.

I don't say all this to demean or mock the girl in question, I personally know little about her. The loss of human life is always tragic, and thus is natural fodder for bleeding heart politicians. The thing they miss though is the simple definition of the problem. The problem is not that people are generally rude and insensitive. It is that people are growing up in a sanitized world where they lack the opportunity to gain real maturity.

Re:Fine line. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506878)

The problem is you are a fucking retard who needs to castrate himself.

Re:Fine line. (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507100)

The story mentions the fact that the girl suffered from clinical depression and was on medication. I agree, this is not a case where any kind of new law is needed. All that really needs to be done in this case is to out the cold hearted bitch that did this in front of her family, community, church, and anyone else who might care. The fact that the poor girl killed herself is almost immaterial. What everyone should know is that this woman spent a month of her life just to hurt a vulnerable and mentally ill girl. That alone would make any right minded person want to shun any contact with her.

Re:Fine line. (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506862)

"On one hand we want to create a way to prevent things such as this suicide from happening."

Impossible goal. You can't stop people from doing stupid stuff. People doing stupid stuff shouldn't be illegal. While tragic suicides of little girls supposedly from "online bullying" is rare, there shouldn't be a law against "cyber bullying".

Seriously, I blame the parents (term used loosely) for not monitoring their little girl's online activity, nor teaching proper self esteem (gad, I hate that term). I blame the parents for letting a 13 year old for allowing "dating" type relationship, either online or otherwise. While it is all the rage in Junior High, it isn't appropriate for little girls. What's the point of it anyway, other than getting pregnant and all the other horrible things that arise from being 13 and pregnant?

I also blame society that has laws for everything so that the dad of little can't walk over to the asshat's house and kicking the shit out of them. The fact that asshats need their asses kicked, and they know that if/when that happens there is a nice juicy lawsuit judgement waiting, it only encourages more asshats.

This is one of the reasons why there so many asshats today, there's nothing anyone can do about them, there's no restraint.

Re:Fine line. (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506956)

I also blame society that has laws for everything so that the dad of little can't walk over to the asshat's house and kicking the shit out of them.

Well, you've just introduced the concept of penalizing the perpetrators, with the twist that the penalization can only occur if the victim's father happens to be physically dominant over the perpetrator. The reason we have things like laws and such is so that people can get justice even if they aren't physically strong.

Re:Fine line. (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507040)

that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress
How does a court decide whether or not a reasonable person would suffer distress? Or whether that distress would be substantial enough to prosecute?

This sounds an awful lot like the moronic pornography law. "We'll know it when we see it."

Treaty of Ghent? (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506472)

Did you just throw that in there at the end to see if people read your wall o' text "articles"? Regardless, you're kind of all over the place on this one. I'm not even certain what point you're trying to make.

Re:Treaty of Ghent? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507154)

Ummmm... Seemed pretty clear to me.

"Cyber Bullying" legislation isn't going to solve any problems, at best it will do nothing. At worst it will add incentive for "victimized" teens to harm themselves in order to get back at their bullys.

Bullying is something that needs to be delt with by individuals and parents, not the government. It's not the government's place or duty to be butting in here, and the polititians, while they mean well, are making more pointless laws that will get mucked up in the court system.

I agree with his point about the Treaty of Ghent. I mean, seriously...

Hmmm (5, Funny)

Spudtrooper (1073512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506474)

Sen. Scott Rupp has introduced Senate Bill 818, which would prohibit "cyber harassment" defined as conduct which "serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person",

Uh, isn't that the whole point of the internet?

Re:Hmmm (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506612)

No, the Internet is also for porn. You'd know that if you weren't such an uptight fuckwit, you moronic prick.

Re:Hmmm (4, Funny)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506684)


Where's my gun...

Is this okay? (1)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506736)

Spudtrooper, you are a complete waste of human space!! BURN IN HELL!

<legitimate purpose>What WoW guild should do you think I should join?</legitimate purpose>

Re:Hmmm (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506874)

No, but I have heard Slashdot described that way...

Teddy Roosevelt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506502)

Here I was thinking this was about robot presidents...

I think... (4, Insightful)

apdyck (1010443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506506)

IMHO, the only way to prevent this sort of thing from happening is for parents to take responsibility for their children's actions and time online. When I was growing up, my parents were very controlling of what I was able to do online (not the the Internet was widespread - it was more limited to BBSs), and they continued this trend with the rest of my siblings (all younger). The end result was that we all had no issues with cyber-bullying, or any other online-related issues. Sure, we all got in trouble for trying to do things we weren't supposed to, but the end result was that we were better people because our parents took an interest in what we were doing and tried to make our time as constructive (read: not wasteful) as possible. So when I read something like this, all I can think is "What is a 13-year-old girl doing on the Internet?" When I was 13, if I were allowed to connect to an online service (I did use Compuserve at one point), I was under direct supervision. I was not allowed to keep my actions secret, and I am grateful for it!

Re:I think... (2, Informative)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506632)

You mean parents should actually -parent-? What a concept!

I agree entirely. To allow young children online without even half an eye on the monitor is stupid, not to mention neglectful and irresponsible.

Re:I think... (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506714)

I think that an adult that engages in taunting / hounding children over the internet or any other medium is being malicious and that is not behaviour that should be tolerated in any environment.

The passing of laws that clobber free speech seems to me to be unnecessary. There has always been a dividing line between free speech and abuse, I suspect all the laws that are needed are already on the books.

Now is not the time to treat the internet as if it were another planet. This is a old-fashioned, low-tech people on people issue.

No, I will not get off your lawn. (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506826)

"What is a 13-year-old girl doing on the Internet?"

You might as well say, why regulate broadcast TV for content? What is a 13-year-old girl doing watching TV?

For most kids today, the WWW sits right along side of TV, the telephone, and other electronic media. Yes, parents need to be parents, and pass that responsibility onto law enforcement. I wouldn't say a 13-yr old should be online without supervision, but that's like saying a 13-yr old shouldn't use the telephone without supervision.

You should who your child is talking to. Does that mean your on the other line, listening, when she calls a friend?

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506868)

When you grew up, this may have been reasonable. Nowadays, this is similar to saying that your parents went everywhere with you, holding your hand until the day you turned 18. Internet use is too much a common part of daily life for parents to fully monitor it and still have done a reasonable job of monitoring.

Furthermore, I see your anecdote with my own. My parents never monitored my internet access and the result was that I had no issues with cyber-bullying either. Most people don't.

Re:I think... (2, Informative)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506884)

You should read the Megan Meier events. Her mom (according to her account) did monitor what was going on at first. The problem was that a couple of other adults kept up a ruse for a while ( can't remember exactly how long). The events on the day of the harassment pretty much occurred in a very short period of time when monitoring wasn't going on (she wasn't supposed to be on). I agree with some of the other posters, though, education about dealing with issues and maybe even some education about empathy towards others would be the best solution. As despicable a thing that those adults (who instigated the harassment) did, I don't know that tramping over free speech rights is the answer. Aren't there normal harassment rules that can be extended in some way to capture some of these?

Re:I think... (4, Informative)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507058)

Is this the sort of close parental supervision you're thinking of?

Tina Meier was wary of the cyber-world of MySpace and its 70 million users. People are not always who they say they are. Tina knew firsthand. Megan and the girl down the block, the former friend, once had created a fake MySpace account, using the photo of a good-looking girl as a way to talk to boys online, Tina says. When Tina found out, she ended Megan's access. [...] As Megan's 14th birthday approached, she pleaded for her mom to give her another chance on MySpace, and Tina relented. She told Megan she would be all over this account, monitoring it. Megan didn't always make good choices because of her ADD, Tina says. And this time, Megan's page would be set to private and only Mom and Dad would have the password. []

What would you have done differently? Not allowed Megan back on-line? That's an easy idea in retrospect, but growing up did you ever bug your parents over and over about something until they decided to let you do it?

Yeah, bullying is bad and all, but... (0, Flamebait)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506512)

Killing yourself because a neighbor taunted and humiliated you online?

You're probably not cut out to live as it is.

agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506548)

you hurt my feelings!

Re:Yeah, bullying is bad and all, but... (1)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506782)

Not so much the conclusion, but the symptom of a larger problem with this girl. I firmly believe that she was suffering from some other malady (or maladies) that resulted in her suicide. Simply being tormented online by a bunch of people (even if you're an emotionally vapid teenager) or someone you think is the bees-knees is not the sole reason for suicide. (At least for people who are otherwise stable, sane and rational.... or even a teen... heh.)

However, that does not stop politicians from making it a hot-button "ooooh scary stuff!" issue that puts otherwise rational people in a mode of fearfulness we haven't seen since the Dark Ages. People need to be more informed and stop thinking that the government has the answer to everything. Bullies will always exist... making a law that makes them "more evil" is not going to solve squat.

And for Odin's sake... talk to your kids... keep them involved and keep yourself interested in their lives... so that they have a place secure, safe, and warm to be when morons make them feel blue. Quit the crippity-crap whining about the world and make YOUR world (your home) a refuge from the idiots.... and I think you'll find things will go more smoothly, and dare I say, more peacefully. ...or you can just wait for a new law that makes it a "bad bad super bad McBadmeister" crime.

Questions (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506524)

If it were a man posing as a 16 year old boy and having conversation on line with this girl, would the case already be covered under existing laws?

If so, should it matter that the adult who was seducing this young lady online was a woman as opposed to a man?

Re:Questions (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507004)

No one said anything about "seducing". Essentially the person was just being a dick. Sort of trolling with a more personal touch. In this case however the person be targeted obviously wasn't prepared to deal with people and must have had some other issues as well. Really this is more a case of a disturbed individual who needed help, more than it's a case of "OMG! Cyber-bully killed someone!".

How to change the law (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506530)

It seems that by committing suicide these days, you can influence the law making process.

I just can't bear another Viagra spam. If I get just one more I'll take a Viagra overdose, and become a spam martyr.

Re:How to change the law (0, Troll)

Urd.Yggdrasil (1127899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506866)

Your post advocates a ( ) technical (X) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.) ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected (X) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it ( ) Users of email will not put up with it ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it ( ) The police will not put up with it (X) Requires too much cooperation from spammers ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists (X) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business Specifically, your plan fails to account for ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it (X) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email (X) Open relays in foreign countries ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses ( ) Asshats (X) Jurisdictional problems ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email (X) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches (X) Extreme profitability of spam ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft (X) Technically illiterate politicians ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers (X) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering ( ) Outlook and the following philosophical objections may also apply: ( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation ( ) Blacklists suck ( ) Whitelists suck (X) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually ( ) Sending email should be free ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers? ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses [hey, it's Microsoft... they've probably already submitted the patent...] ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome (X) I don't want the government reading my email ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough Furthermore, this is what I think about you: ( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work. (X) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it. ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

Re:How to change the law (0, Redundant)

Urd.Yggdrasil (1127899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506894)

Man I screwed that up, I'm such a noob at this Slashdot thing. :(

Re:How to change the law (1)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507140)

Your first mistake was deciding to post it.

More laws? (5, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506532)

More legislation is not the answer--it will just make things convoluted.

"Bullying" is not really prosecutable unless it has some actual effect on the person being bullied, e.g. simple assault, petty larceny, slander, etc.

At present, yes, it appears that "inciting someone to commit suicide" is not specifically a charge, but a minor alteration to an existing law--e.g. putting something of that sort under "manslaughter"--would more than suffice to prevent that particular effect in the future. Thus, it would also cover situations where someone convinced someone else to commit suicide in person, rather than passing some new unneeded law.

Re:More laws? (2, Insightful)

Urd.Yggdrasil (1127899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506642)

How exactly would that fit into any law without being completely stupid and arbitrary? If I'm walking down the street and come upon a scene where someone is threatening to jump off of a building, and I yell "Jump!", and he does, does that make me a murderer? As much as people hate to hear it suicide is not murder and hurting peoples feelings isn't and should never be illegal. P.S. Anyone who thinks otherwise should kill themselves.

Re:More laws? (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506674)

Accessory to manslaughter, if you like.

So long as suicide is called a crime, encouraging someone to do so would be a crime. If you told someone to rob a bank, could they arrest you as being an accessory to grand larceny?

Re:More laws? (1)

Urd.Yggdrasil (1127899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506754)

I probably should have elaborated on my own feelings that suicide should, in fact, not be illegal. But then regarding your own statement of

So long as suicide is called a crime
I am not aware of any law which actually outlaws suicide.

Re:More laws? (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506846)

It appears there is actually no law explicitly forbidding it currently on the books in the US, but it may be considered to be a common law offense in certain jurisdictions.

Assisted suicide is called out as illegal in some places, though--were the state where this happened one of those places, charges could conceivably be brought.

Hrm. Rather a dearth of legislation about suicide out there, isn't there?

Re:More laws? (1)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507062)

Are you sure Bullying isn't prosecutable?
I could be wrong, but I was pretty sure that are laws against harassment and such. Some of them aren't extended to electronic communications.

I agree, though that creating a totally new law that is likely to be unenforceable or tramples free speech isn't good either.

Bullshit (0, Troll)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506540)

"caused her to commit suicide"? That's sooo much bullshit I don't even know where to start. If your committing suicide you have more problems than just an asshole neighbor.

Not New (5, Insightful)

kidcharles (908072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506584)

One of the consequences of the rapid rise of the internet is the clumsiness of the responses to the problems that have arisen as a result. It also has resulted in responses that imagine new phenomenon in "cyberspace" that aren't fundamentally new. Bullying has been around forever. Bullying on the internet is new only because it is on the internet, there is nothing fundamentally different about it that would warrant coining a new term "cyber bullying," but yet here we are talking about it. Are there laws against bullying or harassment? If so, apply them to these cases, it's the message not the medium. The concept of "cyber bullying" among other fad terms will be looked at as quaint even 10 years from now, much like the panic over rock and roll music in the 50's.

Obvious Answers: (-1, Flamebait)

el_munkie (145510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506588)

But the focus on Megan's case raises two questions: (a) whether it is fair to invoke Megan in the name of passing the laws

No. In fact, no one invoking the safety of children in this manner should ever be able to legislate on any topic. Anyone making any sort of "Think of the children"-based argument should be immediately considered to have lost the debate. The fact that they have to resort to such scaremongering is evidence enough that their position has no merit.

and (b) whether the laws are a good idea in general.

No. This girl was obviously too much of an emo. Her parents should have realized this and not let her on the Internet. This was a failure of parenting. Our freedom of speech should not be infringed upon simply because some parent isn't capable of the job.

Dammit (-1, Offtopic)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506594)

Outlaw swears? Fuck that! Shit. Cock.

The internet is not for kids (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506624)

Hey, the internet is not for kids. People need to get over it and realize it is something created by adults. It was designed for research, and now porn :) Children should not be allowed on the internet. This would solve a lot of the problems. No predators in online chat rooms, no problems on myspace, and no fat children because they are outside getting exercise as apposed to playing WOW for 15 hours a day.

Another Megan's Law? (1) (745855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506628)

How are we going to tell the difference between this law and the OTHER Megan's law?

Re:Another Megan's Law? (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506740)

Seems to me that naming your daughter "Megan" is just -asking- for trouble.

Perhaps we should just outlaw the name "Megan" and be done with it--no more problems.

Re:Another Megan's Law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506952)

Hmmm...You're right!

That's the problem - kids named Megan.

Outlaw the name Megan, and the problem is solved!

Don't we already have a law? (1)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506666)

Don't we already have laws against false impersonation? My understanding was that the police chose not to prosecute the mother pretending to be the "cute boy", not that they couldn't prosecute her.

We don't need new laws, we just need to enforce the ones we already have.

Re:Don't we already have a law? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506924)

I think that there has to be a reasonable expectation of the other person providing an accurate identity before any law of that sort can apply. Remember that it is very common for people to create new personas for themselves on the Internet, and prior to that, in social clubs or in writing (by using a pen name and narrating in the first person). There is no reasonable expectation of people providing accurate information about themselves on the Internet (or do you honestly think that you could try suing me or getting me arrested for using the screen name "betterunixthanunix" to post this?).

Re:Don't we already have a law? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506994)

Was she pretending to be a particular person or a fictitious person?

Missouri??? Give it a rest - none of their (1)

grolaw (670747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506706)

Politicians is worth a warm bucket of spit. []

Matt Blunt, the Gov. has been described as the worst governor in the US. The state's general assembly is dominated by right-wingnuts opposed to evolution, education and healthcare. The state is in a freefall economically and Roy Blunt (the Gov's father) was bragging about his opposition to the SCHIP bill at CPAC - when that act would have made a massive difference in the medical care available to the children in his district in Southwest Missouri (Springfield/Branson). Roy was Delay's K-Street project leader.

Let's not forget John Ashcroft -

Trust somebody who has watched these weasels - these laws are mere window dressing for their sponsor's reelection campaigns. Pure, unadulterated sophistry.

Re:Missouri??? Give it a rest - none of their (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506964)

The state's general assembly is dominated by right-wingnuts opposed to evolution, education and healthcare.
On behalf of the right-wing nuts that support evolution: don't lump me in with those idiots.

Blah blah blah (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506710)

serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress
I am tired of emotional distress. Yeah someone made you feel sad get over it. THAT IS LIFE. The reason kids shoot up schools is because from day one mommy and daddy tell their children that they should always be happy. "Are you happy little timmy?" "whats wrong Timmy you want a cookie? Will that make you feel better?" What happened to hey you lost the baseball game try harder? Now it is "The ump made bad calls so thats why you lost." Shit people LIFE SUCKS deal with it.

Bullying in Real Life (4, Insightful)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506716)

If congress is so concerned about bullying, why not crack down upon it in the workplace [] where researchers estimate 90% (Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 471-501) of individuals experience Employee Emotional Abuse at some point of their employment, often leading to lost productivity and increased healthcare costs, where the vast majority of the time, the abuser continues this behavior after the victim leaves the organization to someone else. (e.g. the project leader who takes it upon himself to become everyone in the group's ad-hoc supervisor and foams at the mouth when he doesn't get his way or his arbitrary, non-enforcable preferences aren't met or is in direct violation of the union contract.) If "sexual harassment" is so illegal an unethical, why not any kind of workplace intimidation of a non-sexual (or non protected-class) nature not illegal in any way?

However, in private civil matters between ordinary citizens, Congress is only doing this (I hope) to win the "please think of the children" vote. I'm truly hoping that they don't honestly believe they are going to actually be able to stop it. This is the 21st century version of "Jamie is a whore" written on a bathroom stall.

Does it suck? Yes. Is the guilty party an asshole? Probably (if it was unprovoked). Does it need big government to save us from the mean kids? No. Period.

why not (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506718)

Treat cyber bullying like real bullying?

Just because it is done over an electronic medium doesn't make this "problem" new, in fact i would say it makes it less harmful than in "my day" of being beaten to a pulp in the locker room?

The most obvious course of action (1)

t33jster (1239616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506722)

Is to post as many suicide-encouraging comments now, before it's illegal to do so.

Seriously though - while tragic, this kid's death shouldn't be blamed on the words somebody posted online. Would the Crocidile Hunter's memory be honored by eradicating all sting rays? Attaching the cause of suicide on anything other than the fact that someone seriously needed some help that they weren't getting is simple - and irresponsible.

Do not let kids on the Internet! (1)

Mandovert (1140887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506728)

They make it stupid.

The Real Problem: (1)

Tavor (845700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506768)

The real problem isn't bullying. Bullying has been around in some form or another since the dawn of time. The real problem is a twofold difficulty in psychological care for tweens and adolescents. One being that professional care is VERY expensive in the United States; the other that there is a very negative stigma here about talking your problems out. The stigma problem isn't something that will go away any time soon, but the other problem can be blamed mostly on insurance companies. I've suffered from a neurochemical imbalance most of my life, and I've had to fight tooth and nail with my insurer to get them to help out with the bills. They still wouldn't though, so I went ahead and saw a doctor anyway, having my family help out. That isn't an option for most people, though. An everyday crime, at the feet of insurers.

Legislating against bullying is ridulous (1, Insightful)

fozzmeister (160968) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506772)

You can't hold someone responsible for what somebody does in response to anothers actions that's utter stark raving bonkers.

It's for the individual to take responsibility for _their_own_ actions.

Attention Trolls (1)

Monsuco (998964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506774)

Now you no longer get modded down, now you go to jail.

Cyberbullying is just as bad (1)

marzipanic (1147531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506784) bullying in reality, if not worse.

I think they should do whatever they can to stop it, it's a disgrace!

The Internet may be for "adults" but my children "had to" use a computer from being 11 years old for their work. How many kids do you know that will not take a sneaky peek at something they shouldn't, everybody (who is anybody apparently) uses IM and social networking sites.
When anything happened online I told and taught my children to come and tell me, which they did. Obviously some sensitive soul is going to take it to heart, it hurts! So banning kids is the answer to these vile feckless idiots that bully? I think not!

Re:Cyberbullying is just as bad (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506948)

But your kids did not need to use it every night for Myspace :) Or for IMing. The internet is for adults sorry to tell ya. Sometimes a child needs to use the internet for research but they need supervision. Think of it like getting your drivers license you can not drive till you are 16ish. Your parents or someone trains you. So yes children should not be on the internet till they are old enough. If they can not deal with porn, spam, predators in chartrooms, bullying, and the everyday head ache of the internet then they should not be online with out a parent! I do not want my child getting shot at school because you left your kid alone on the internet and he/she got bullied and could not handle it.

Darwin's invisible hand (3, Insightful)

snarfies (115214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506872)

Boo-hoo, somebody who I don't know, have never met, and will never meet, called me a fatty online! Time to become an hero!

Please. When I was a kid I was fat and nerdy, back when being nerdy wasn't cool AT ALL. I was physically assaulted on a nearly daily basis, and if I had access to a gun, I'd have been the prototype for Columbine. So I have zero sympathy for somebody TYPING something mean. If you're that mentally unstable, the gene-pool is well served by your removal.

Don't mod me down, I may hurt myself.

Lets be honest. (3, Insightful)

Hellad (691810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22506886)

Blame the parents is the mantra around here, and I agree in many cases. BUT, I don't think it is appropriate in cases where a child kills herself. That said, I think the issue here is about the cyber bullying. We can argue all day over whether the bullying caused her death, but this is not really the point. The question is whether we should allow this sort of behavior? I mean, a grown woman disguising herself as a 16 year old boy and then bullying her? Regardless of the outcome that is screwed up.

tags (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22506954)

Just like to announce I'm starting an "ohnoitsbennett" tag. While it's obvious to anyone that tags are not shown on the front page by popularity, it may still help if everyone starts using it.

The emotional distress ploy (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507002)

I don't like it. There's too much room for abuse by various groups who seek to control the behavior of others.

Sure, kids are more easily harmed by bullying than adults. That's why parents: (1) have a responsibility to monitor their child's interaction with peers and (more important) adults until they are mature enough to fend for themselves, and (2) see to it that they gain this maturity and independence as rapidly as possible.

Unfortunately, (1) doesn't work when parents are unmotivated to spend the time necessary to get involved with their kids lives. Better to let society bear the burden of bringing their kids up. Better yet, allow your kids the complete freedom to do what they want so that society is obliged to modify its behavior to suit your standards. Want to slow down traffic on the highway? Send your kids out to play on it and then become enraged when a couple of them get squashed.

(2) won't happen either. There are too many institutions, everything from the military to religious organizations, that depend on a supply of easily led little blank slates as fodder for their operations. Teach a kid to think for itself and many of these institutions would fail. Teach a teenage girl that cute, 16 year old boys are all basically dogs and the captain of the H.S. football team ain't getting laid as easily.

Two words (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507006)

First amendment.

Any law that attempts to regulate speech will be shot down. Or at least, SHOULD BE shot down (but with the esteemed members of the US Supreme Court [] these days, who knows what could happen? After all, they ruled that "limited" means whatever Congress says it means.

I wish I could have my country back. This isn't the same place I grew up in.

Civil Law covers this (4, Interesting)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507014)

While what those people who pushed her to the edge enough that she commited suicide did was not criminal it was definetely something that can and should be tried in civil court under tort law. Inflicting "Severe emotional distress" and "negligence" are at least two torts that apply here and the family of the girl should push forward on those grounds. I am not a lawer, I just took Business Law.

Why don't existing harrassment laws apply? (1)

_bug_ (112702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507024)

If I follow along the street, every day, shouting insults at them and taunting them I'm sure the police will find a way to arrest me on charges of harrasment and disorderly conduct and so on. Why wouldn't these apply to online instances? Is it a federal/state thing and the internet makes these situations a bit gray?

Here we go again (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507116)

The Internet, now matter how you slice it, is not a common space to be policed by this judge, or that cop, or those senators. It is a world stage. Any teen can run into mean comments (we used to call it flaming) from ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE WORLD while they are on the Internet.

Enacting legislation against bullying and even cyberbullying is a criminal act in and of itself. The crime? Stupidity.

Sure, the Internet played a part in that teens death. The same way that electricity did!! It was a medium for the messaging.

The crime in this case, if there was one, is that human compassion and common sense did not show through on anyone's part. There is no law against being mean. If there was half our legislators would be in jail, lets not even talk about judges and bureaucrats OR clergy.

You cannot legislate morality. ever. period. Don't give me the killing is immoral and there laws against that. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are in the Constitution. Freedom from mean people is not.

It's all about education people. Educate the children, don't protect them like fragile little dolls that can't take a joke, or they will become that. Explain to them that the Internet is full of mean people, and the (I know you won't believe this next part) WORLD is full of mean people. If your children, friends, or neighbors are unable to deal with life in general, enacting mean-people-suck laws will NOT save them.

In a lot of ways, we have to look at this like the human species is part of the animal kingdom. That old saying 'survival of the fittest' has more meanings than one, and it is the truth whether you think it fair or not. When diseases hit a population, weak and feeble die first. In fact, during any time of stress it is the weak and feeble that die first. There is only one person that is responsible for her death - she is. Sure, others could have helped prevent it, but lets face it, we might as well blame this on all the young boys that didn't want to be her boyfriend, and this did not prevent her subsequent actions.

I am so tired of this kind of political/legislative rhetoric. If you are seriously thinking about this, why don't we all sit down and work out how to stop corporations from being mean too? Life is not fair, get over it. One case does not create a need for law. Now, if you wanted to have the schools start a group counseling session for people who felt victimized by bullies, go ahead. That is a positive step toward helping, not a negative one toward limiting other people's rights.

politician just another word for bully nowadaze (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22507120)

softwar gangsters? glowbull warmongering execrable for sure. let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [];_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [] []

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events. []

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb); []

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones; []

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids; []

& pretending that it isn't happening here; []
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity; []

How about throwing water on a grease fire??? (1)

Phoobarnvaz (1030274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22507144)

With formerly having dealt with "concerned parents" in an educational want to stop cyberbullying...haul the parents away...along with the kids. For some reason...people tend to forget that bullying does not happen in a vacuum. Many times...the parents are the cause of it & teach their kids to emulate the behavior the parents respect/use themselves.

Perhaps the best way to prevent any of this type of behavior beforehand is not letting people have kids in the first place. Just because you can have kids doesn't mean you should.
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