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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cyberbullying- How Should the Law Respond?

Cyberspace has been dominating the news since my last post. I previously blogged how the internet has changed the way people deal with each other. In the past few weeks, we have seen a young man commit suicide after finding out a roommate posted video of him having sexual relations with another man. Duke University has been in the news this week after an email from a former student has gone 'viral', including a power point presentation written by her titled "An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal academics."  Recently a Mecklenburg County District Court Judge spoke about how the internet is playing an increasingly larger role in cases involving violence.

The law will be forced to respond to incidents like this. How should the law hold responsible the person who posts a confidential encounter between two people? Do we hold the person responsible for invasion of privacy or murder? Simple Justice addressed this issue in the post Define Cyberbullying- where is the line drawn for acceptable communications online? How do you account for a person who is more sensitive than another:
I have no definition to offer that satisfies all the concerns, but there is no doubt in my mind that we need one desperately. In its absence, expect to hear screams of cyberbullying everywhere, and laws that prohibit any communication that hurts someone else's feelings. Where should the law be drawn? 
This week I asked a high school sophomore how many text messages he sent in one day- more than 250. That did not include what he received. I also remember walking on UNC Chapel Hill's campus last year while I was attending a seminar- I noticed how students no longer really spoke. Everyone had a IPod in their ear and a cell phone in hand. The day of face to face communication seems to be lost.

How the law will respond to this will be the next question. Laws will be implemented and penalties will be imposed. Teaching the younger generation that the Internet is not private is a difficult task. Convincing a 16 year old that texting can result in a misdemeanor Communicating Threats case is difficult until the moment they arrive with their parents in the criminal defense attorney's office. Having a privacy setting on your Facebook page does not mean that it is private.  Sending an email with an attachment to your closest friends that you thought would be private can go 'viral' on the internet. Internet privacy is a misnomer. The criminal case that follows is not.

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