Cyberbullying and the Law


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A brief overview of state and federal cyberbullying law.

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  • Megan sounds like she was a very emotional, fragile child and pretty reactive who’d been under psychiatric care for several years. Pretty detailed description of her refusing to get offline despite being ordered repeatedly by her mother. She also contributed to the conversation by defending herself, and overreacting, not unusual by children who have been bullied. Nevertheless, Lori Drew is an evil woman who never should have manipulated a child.Still some might say this issn’tcyberbullying, as Megan was “bullied” by two adults.
  • So no one could be charge with a crime.
  • He wrote negatively about his middle-school Principal and an algebra teacher, comparing the teacher to Hitler, listing grievances, asking for help with hiring a hitman. Nevertheless the kid;s defense was that it ws all hyperbole and shouldn’t have been taken seriously and was meant just for his friends.
  • One of the major areas of contention, however, seems to be whether school districts can interfere in the behavior or speech of students that occurs away from campus. Harassment often occurs outside of school time, property, events.
  • Cyberbullying and the Law

    1. 1. cyberbullyingand the law<br />Suna Gurol<br />June 7, 2011<br />Digital Media and the Law<br />UW MCDM<br />
    2. 2. What is cyberbullying?<br />One definition: “Cyberbullying is the process of using the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. It can be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.” (National Crime Prevention Council)<br />Another definition: “"Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.” (<br />
    3. 3. So, still being defined<br />When does it cross the line from teasing to illegal behavior?<br />What is the difference between stalking, bullying, and harassment?<br />Do both parties need to be minors?<br />Who can be held legally responsible?<br />Child?<br />Parent?<br />Schools (districts, officials, teachers)?<br />Other adults?<br />
    4. 4. Where did we become really aware of cyberbullying? Sad case of Megan Meier<br />In 2006, Megan Meier was a 13 year old girl living Missouri who had conflict with her friend Sarah. Lori Drew, the mother of the friend, conspired with her daughter and a teenage employee to create a MySpace account in order to become online friends and get back at Megan, using the fictitious user-name of “Josh Evans.” After several weeks of gaining her confidence, Josh/Lori then posted several negative and humiliating comments about Megan and incited others to do the same. The last comment from Josh/Lori ended with how the “world would be a better place without her (Megan).”<br /> Megan hung herself about a half hour later after receiving that message. <br />
    5. 5. What was the law to do?<br />In 2006 no specific law against cyberbullying or harassment in Missouri, sooo … no one technically broke the law.<br />US Attorney in California filed case against Lori Drew claiming she violated MySpace’s Terms of Service. Claimed jurisdiction because of where MySpace’s servers housed. United States v. Lori Drew<br />Lori Drew convicted by a jury of her peers of one count of violating the computer fraud and abuse act (a misdemeanor).<br />But… overturned on appeal by the judge. Why? Because it would be an “overwhelmingly overbroad enactment that would convert a multitude of otherwise innocent Internet users into misdemeanant criminals." <br />
    6. 6. There is some precedent –Cyberbullying and free speech<br />J.S. v. Bethlehem Area School DistrictIn 1998, 14 year old student created a website called “Teachers Sux.” School district contacted police & FBI, who declined to prosecute. School district expelled the student for violating their Code of Conduct. J.S. filed an appeal with the local court claiming that his website was protected free speech and the School District violated his constitutional rights.<br />He lost his appeal. Even though the website was created off-campus, the court found there was a "sufficient nexus between the web site and the school campus to consider the speech as occurring on-campus.”<br />The judge commented “complete chaos is not required for a school district to punish free speech.”<br />
    7. 7. What happened next in cyberbullying law?<br />Much outrage over Megan Meier case. Missouri updated its law in 2008 to include electronic and internet harassment.<br />Most states as well as many counties, cities now have similar laws. Though they vary widely in scope. (What is the one state without a bullying law?)<br />No federal law (yet) though “Megan’s Law” (or the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act) was introduced to Congress on April 2, 2009.<br />However, still some confusion on interstate cyberbullying. Who has jurisdiction?<br />
    8. 8. Washington State law<br />Washington State law determines a difference between cyberbullying, cyberharassment, cyberstalking based upon age and severity.<br />
    9. 9. What about school districts?<br />One of the major areas of contention, however, seems to be whether school districts can interfere in the behavior or speech of students that occurs away from campus. Harassment often occurs outside of school time, property, events.<br />But… states are realizing that when speech or behavior committed off‐campus it can result in a clear disruption of the school environment. (Hinduja, 2009) So, schools districts are not off the hook. <br />Also a great opportunity for further education.<br />Washington state has required that school districts specifically address cyberbullying in their school policies. <br />
    10. 10. What about parents?<br />Currently, parents are not held the responsible – the minor child is. Law enforcement feel that Internet and cell phone use is close-to impossible for parents to monitor constantly.<br />However, some situations could be avoided if parents use some simple solutions. Communication between child and parent is key. Realizing that your child can be both a victim and a bully (inconceivable to most parents).<br />
    11. 11. New cases in Washington<br />Issaquah, WA 2011 – Two girls, age 11 and 12, charged with cyberstalkingand first-degree computer trespassing — and face up to 30 days in juvenile detention if convicted. The girls are the youngest people to be charged in King County under the state electronic harassment law. They also face a civil suit.<br />Lacey, WA 2011 – Two girls (age 13 and 14) and a boy (14) charged with dissemination of child pornography, for forwarding a former friends (age 14) naked photo. (Note: “Sexting” itself is not illegal.)<br />
    12. 12. Conclusion<br />Law is getting tough on this type of crime… but is in the process of catching up.<br />Federal law would probably be useful, especially for interstate crime. <br />School districts have to implement education and disciplinary programs regarding cyber crimeand bullying knowing that they legally have some responsibility in some jurisdictions.<br />Parents can be a part of the education of their children to keep them from going to juvenile court.<br />
    13. 13. The kids are(n’t) allright<br />The real problem is that children are not realizing the ramifications that the Internet is not their private playground for fun, games and… thoughtless cruelty.<br />
    14. 14. Photo Credits<br />Slide 1 -<br />Slide 3 – Expro bike lane ends by Jason Huff via Flickr.<br />Slide 4 Megan Meier<br />Slide 6 – FREE SPEECH by Newtown Graffitti via Flickr.<br />Slide 7 -<br />